A Reflection on Our Reason Why

Daniel Barden Mudfest creator and coordinator, Dan Williams, discusses the recent independent film, NEWTOWN, which premiered on PBS at the beginning of April. He details how Mudfest was born from the need to create something positive out of something so tragic.

The idea for the Mudfest was born at the funeral for Daniel Barden, who was one of the first graders killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. I was suffering from abject despair during the ceremony when Daniel’s cousin gave the last eulogy. She charged everyone in attendance to stand up and change the world. She said if you can do something to make the world a better place, then please do it. As we walked out of the church, the idea came to me like an epiphany. I turned to my wife and said I’m organizing a mud run for the Barden family. It was cathartic to work on the event over the coming months. We were able to transform our grief into positive energy. Our community organized around us and we grew closer as a result. It was extremely therapeutic to our minds and spirits.

NEWTOWN is special to me because I can see how much it has helped the Barden family heal. The documentary is extremely difficult to watch, but the mood of it becomes positive and uplifting when they get to the segment about Mudfest. I know that our mud run will not completely erase what happened, but our hope is that we can inspire everyone to get back up and make the world a better place.

Daniel Barden was often characterized as an old soul. I will never forget him holding the door for me at my sister’s house. He was seven. He helped his classmates when they were down and embodied everything you would want in a good and descent person. The Daniel Barden Mudfest honors Daniel by asking everyone to make a pledge to not only help each other throughout the event, but everyday going forward.

All proceeds from this event are donated back to several charities. The charities are chosen by 8th grade students who apply for our Adventure Scholarship. The Adventure Scholarship takes place in the Adirondacks of New York state. 14-16 students from the central New York area and Sandy Hook, CT area go on a 10-day, 80-mile canoe trip. They camp, hike and canoe totally “unplugged” for the entire time; creating lasting memories and life-long friendships between our two communities.

  • WATCH NOW: You can watch the full-length NEWTOWN film online thanks to PBS through April 17th HERE.
  • GET MUDDY: We would love to have you and a team join us as a runner during the 2017 Daniel Barden Mudfest – register HERE.
  • VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME: Want to participate, but not able to do the run? No problem. We welcome you as a volunteer HERE.
  • BECOME A SPONSOR: As always, this event is not possible without our very generous sponsors. Learn how you can become a sponsor HERE.
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