Memorial race continues Falmouth junior Olympian's legacy

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FALMOUTH — On a cool Sunday morning, runners and walkers gathered outside the high school to help raise money for under-served youth, and to honor a young man who died more than a decade ago.

The annual “I Ran for Dan” Daniel Cardillo Memorial 5K was held Sept. 14, and was coupled with an annual Memorial Golf Tournament in Scarborough on Sept. 12. Both were hosted by the Daniel Cardillo Charitable Fund, which has awarded nearly $175,000 in scholarships since it began in 1999 and has raised close to $500,000, which is administered by the Maine Community Foundation.

Daniel Cardillo was a junior Olympic skier who was killed in a skiing accident in 1999, when he was 14.

According to Cardillo’s father, Ken, the scholarships have only two criteria: First, an applicant must have a passion, and second, the applicant must be compassionate. Cardillo said these criteria are a way to honor his son’s top qualities.

“We used to get over 300 applications,” Cardillo said. “So we eliminated that, we had to get the numbers down somehow. So of course everyone going to college wants a scholarship, so we said college applicants need not apply.”

He said the recipients of the scholarships vary, from ballet dancers to skiers, to wrestlers and musicians, and others. The fund supports Olympic hopefuls, like Dan, and equine therapy for kids with special needs.

“These are hopeful kids who have a dream and we’d like to see them achieve their dream,” Cardillo said. “So it’s a great way to memorialize Dan. Every kid has a dream and so we want kids’ dreams to live on, and support those dreams. So it’s been a fulfilling foundation.”

Cardillo said in years past, the race has typically attracted between 500 and 700 participants. He said this year, however, was a “transition year,” because longtime organizer Jeanne Hackette retired in January. He had hoped to have between 200 and 500 runners, but there were only 130 registered participants.

“We were going to not have the race this year,” Cardillo said. “But then I decided to take it on as a transition.” He said two of his son’s former classmates who still live in Falmouth, Brent Noyes and Ben Piper, stepped in to help; Noyes assisted Cardillo in organizing this year’s race, and Piper will take over next year.

Jim Skvorak, Daniel’s cousin, who ran the annual golf charity for more than 10 years, said he and Cardillo always had help from Dan’s friends, which made the events that much more special. He said one of the most rewarding parts now is seeing people’s kids running in the event.

“It’s a nice group of people,” Skvorak said. “You get used to seeing the same faces every year.” 

One person Skvorak sees every year is 77-year-old Polly Kenniston. Kenniston said she never knew Dan, but wanted to support the cause. Kenniston has run the event in each of its 16 years.

“I always wanted to do it because it’s such a wonderful cause,” she said. “It’s so worthwhile.”

Jorma Kurry, a Falmouth High School math teacher and cross country coach, said he has only missed one or two of the races. He started teaching the fall after Dan died, so he saw the inaugural 5K.

“I was struck by how much it was a celebration and not a mourning,” Kurry said. “There was some sadness, but mostly a reflection of joy.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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More than 100 runners participated Sept. 14 in the 16th annual Daniel Cardillo Memorial 5K in Falmouth, which raises money for under-served youth in Maine.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.