In a small town such as Monroe, most everyone knows each other. At the very least, they have friends in common.
And even though almost 30 years have passed, the members of Masuk High School’s Class of 1983 share a common bond that extends beyond graduation day.
When Kevin Bresnahan (Masuk ‘83) realized one of the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School belonged to fellow Masuk alumnus Steve Kowalski (‘83) and Becky Frazier Kowalski (‘86), he was determined to find a way to support the family during this difficult time.
In honor of their son Chase, a vibrant young boy who loved to run, read and participate in Cub Scouts, Bresnahan founded “1,000 Miles for Chase.” According to his website (10004chase.blogspot.com), sponsors are asked to donate $10 for every mile Bresnahan runs this year.
The Colchester resident’s goal is to log in 1,000 miles, and he anticipates running between 20 to 30 miles a week.
‘Very thankful’ for the support
In an email message, Becky Kowalski expressed her appreciation for the project.
“We were amazed, proud and very thankful when we learned Brez is honoring Chase through running, which is a sport that Chase absolutely loved,” Becky wrote.
“We deeply appreciate all the support we are getting from both the running community and from the community of Monroe,” she continued. “The friendships we made growing up in Monroe are very dear to us. We have been blessed by incredible support from so many of our old friends from Masuk Class of ’83 and the Class of ’86, and from the new friends we met when Chase attended Kiddie Campus in 2009 and 2010.
“The outpouring of support,” Becky wrote, “is helping us to heal and to realize our vision to keep Chase’s spirit alive and ‘running’ to help others and achieve positive change.”
Until he reaches his goal, Bresnahan plans to post blogs about his runs. So far, he’s traversed local paths near his home in Colchester in eastern Connecticut as well as routes around the new Sandy Hook Elementary School in Monroe’s former Chalk Hill building.
“The blog is a way for my sponsors to feel they’re more connected to the project,” Kevin explained.
Memorial fund set up for Chase
Donors also are encouraged to go to the Chase Kowalski Memorial Fund Facebook page. Created by his parents, the page has photos of Chase participating in local races.
One of the comments tells how “the running bug” hit Chase when he was only 2. Chase received several trophies for his running, and last August had won first place in a triathlon.
All donations go to the Chase Kowalski Memorial Fund. Bresnahan said the family envisions eventually designing a permanent memorial that reflects their son’s activities and values.
Family support for his run
During the first month of his fund-raiser, Bresnahan ran more than 100 miles. His father, who lives in Monroe, has pledged $100 for every 100 miles he runs.
His sister, Beth, who previously worked for the company that produces The Monroe Courier, also got involved. Inspired by Lyndsay Knauf, a Newtown runner who hopes to raise $26,000 by running in 26 road races this year, Beth and her brother recently participated in a 5K race in Milford.
“As we ran along, there was a quiet moment just before the finish line when Kevin reached into his pocket and handed me Chase’s Mass card, which has his picture on the front,” Beth recounted.
Kevin Bresnahan reportedly told his sister he keeps the card close to him when he runs.
A close class at Masuk
Along with his family, many old friends in Monroe — including Masuk alums — have supported Bresnahan’s efforts. Even before the tragedy struck Newtown, though, Bresnahan said the Class of 1983 had been a tight-knit group.
“We’ve reached out to one another over the years,” Bresnahan said. “When my mom passed away in 2003, I received many cards and messages from people in our class, even those I didn’t know very well.”
In fact, Bresnahan hasn’t maintained as close ties with the Kowalski family as he has with classmates Greg Ruel and Bob Terry.
Terry is part of Steve and Becky Kowalski’s “inner circle.” He lives in Newtown and has children who are good friends with the Kowalskis’ daughters.
‘Grace and courage’
Ruel said, “Kevin, Bob and I have been childhood friends since growing up in Monroe. We were all inspired by Steve and Becky’s grace and courage that touched each of us during Chase’s memorial service. After the service, we stayed up late talking and sharing ideas about how we could help to support Steve and Becky.
“In the days that followed, we continued to collaborate on different ideas [to support the family]. Kevin discovered a personal way to honor Chase’s love of running, support the Kowalski family and connect his network of friends to his cause through 1,000 Miles for Chase running campaign and blog.”
Proud of his friend’s efforts, Ruel is equally pleased with reactions from the Monroe community. “It’s very encouraging to see how many friends are re-connecting through Kevin’s blog to support his effort,” Ruel said.