By M.E. Jones

Correspondent

AYER -- The ninth annual Janis Bresnahan 5K Run for Education will be held this Sunday, May 19. The event is named for an Ayer High School alumnus and running enthusiast whose life was dedicated to the education of children.

Proceeds from the event the Bresnahan family and some of their friends launched nearly a decade ago benefit the Ayer-Shirley Education Foundation, funding "enrichment programs and professional training aimed at improving the quality of education for the 1,400 students in the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District," according to the ASEF website.

Simply put, it helps all four district schools in both member towns, which is one of the most compelling reasons that area businesses sign up as run sponsors, said Betsy (Bresnahan) Dolan, one of the event's founders and organizers.

For those who do it, year after year, "it has to be a labor of love," she said.

Kevin Bresnahan added personal thanks to the sponsors, most of whom have been on board since day one.

"We would like to give a very heartfelt thank you to all of our sponsors," he said. "It is thanks to their financial support that the race has been able to raise so much for Ayer and Shirley schools."

Noting the "tough economic climate" that's persisted for some time, "it's amazing how quickly local businesses sign up to sponsor the race each year," Bresnahan said. "I know it has not been easy."

Sponsor contributions have raised almost $200,000 over the last nine years and the run has raised close to $300,000 for Ayer and Shirley schools, he continued. "I think it shows how truly committed our local businesses are to our community and our schools."

It's striking, he said, how many run sponsors' names also show up elsewhere around town, "adorning our baseball field at Pirone Park, sponsoring the PTO golf tournament and so many other charitable programs."

The event's premier sponsor, North Middlesex Savings Bank, has been on board from the first and is a perfect example of the kind of community commitment he was talking about, he said, "sponsoring not only our race but also the Thanksgiving day Turkey Trot and many other charities." Ayer and Shirley are blessed to have businesses so willing to give to their community," he said.

North Middlesex Savings Bank President and CEO Wallace Dwyer, who ran the race in previous years, said the appreciation is mutual. "We couldn't be more pleased" with this event and the "wonderful things" the ASEF supports with its proceeds, he said. "We intend to continue as sponsors."

Sadly, the sponsor list, listed on the event website, janisbresnahanforeducation.com, is shorter this year after the recent death of Dick Rakip, a close family friend who contributed more than $23,000 to the race over its nine-year history.

Rakip was Janis Bresnahan's godfather.

"He was by far the most generous private donor to our race and to the Ayer-Shirley Education Foundation," Kevin Bresnahan said. "As my mother says ... he was the best godfather anyone could have ever asked for."

Bresnahan characterized the run as a family affair in more ways than one, as Janis's family and friends in town pull together to help plan the event each year and local businesses step up to support it financially.

It brings the community together, too, he said. "So many of the families in Ayer and Shirley gather on the day of the race; it truly has become a great community event for our towns,"

With a new 2K Fun Run/ Walk now added to the event roster, everybody can join in, he said. "We hope for another great turnout this year."

Sponsor List

Premier Sponsor: North Middlesex Savings Bank

Platinum Sponsors: Anderson Family Funeral Homes, Bemis Associates, Inc., Betsy and Gerry Amenta, Code Red, Foster Insurance Agency Inc., Foundation Asset Management, Gervais Ford, J.C. Madigan Inc., Lexington Insurance Company, Nashoba Paving Company, Nashoba Valley Medical Center, Tony and Joyce McGuane, Mary and Tim Valley.

Gold Sponsors: Attorney Cornelius "Connie" Sullivan, Ayer Oil Company, Foster-McGuane Financial, Headquarters Hair Salon, J&S Business Products, Phoenix Park, Piccolino's Food and Spirits, RoadRaceWebsites.com, Sports & Physical Therapy Associates, The Billiards Café, The Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant, Vitasoy USA Inc.

Catherine Jones contributed to this story.