Darien Road Race kicks off new partnership

Pictured left to right: Darien Road Race Co-Chairs Jenn Moller & Anne Meyer; Tom Haidinger, Chief Marketing Officer, Mirador; Heidi Davis, Partner, Chief of Staff, Mirador; Janet King, Executive Director, The Community Fund of Darien.

Pictured left to right: Darien Road Race Co-Chairs Jenn Moller & Anne Meyer; Tom Haidinger, Chief Marketing Officer, Mirador; Heidi Davis, Partner, Chief of Staff, Mirador; Janet King, Executive Director, The Community Fund of Darien.

Contributed photo / Contributed photo

DARIEN — For more than four decades, hundreds of runners, their families and friends have filled the streets to support the community and their neighbors.

The Darien Road Race returns for its 41st year on Sept. 19 at Pear Tree Point Beach after it was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic. The event is not only a tradition in town, but the Community Fund of Darien’s biggest fundraiser.

“Now, more than ever, the community wants to come together,” said Jenn Moller, a community fund board member and a co-chair for the race.

She said they’re excited to host the race again and help raise money for those in need.

“This really is a special event for our town,” Moller said.

The Community Fund of Darien provides money to 30 or so nonprofit organizations in Darien, Stamford and Norwalk, focusing on the human element more than capital projects. This includes basic needs, youth success, workforce development and community health.

This year, the race will also kick off a new corporate partnership between the community fund and Mirador, a firm headquartered in the town that works in the financial industry. The firm started six years ago and its number of employees grew 200 percent in the past 18 months alone.

Tom Haidinger, Mirador’s chief marketing officer, said a key part of the company is not only serving its clients but those who work there. Since many of the employees also live in Connecticut, he said they wanted to give back to those communities.

Want to go?

People can sign up online through www.communityfunddarien.org until the day before the race.

The race kicks off at 9 a.m. Sept. 19 at Pear Tree Point Beach.

There is a 1.5-mile fun run loop or a 5-mile timed run.

It costs $50 for anyone 13 and older and $25 for children 12 and younger.

The firm established a foundation, Mirador Serves, in June and formed its first community partnership with the fund not long after.

“The community fund couldn’t be a better partner in our efforts,” Haidinger said.

Not only is the firm helping out with the race with sponsorships, volunteers and runners, Mirador Serves is also working with the fund on future programs. Haidinger said the company is looking to do something to bolster financial literacy and to use the firm’s creative team and existing talents to help the community fund’s other initiatives.

“It’s truly a mutually beneficial partnership,” said Janet King, executive director for the Community Fund of Darien.

She said the partnership goes beyond monetary donations to helping Mirador employees volunteer within the community.

“We see it as a win-win-win,” King said.

The fund also hosts brown bag lunches to better connect the employees to what the fund does and the needs in the community.

“More than 1,000 people in Darien live below the poverty level,” King said, adding that part of the fund’s mission is to raise awareness.

The race is a key way to do that by highlighting the fund’s mission, she said.

Since 1951, the fund has given more than $25 million to local nonprofits, King said.

“It really impacts thousands of people in our local communities,” she said.

The nonprofits are selected by fund members, King said.

This year’s race focuses on youth and programs to help them, especially since, King said, children and teens have been particularly affected by the ongoing pandemic.

People will be asked to wear masks and to not congregate much at the start of the race, Moller said, adding they will meet any COVID-19 requirements in effect on race day.

This might include no awards ceremony or giving participants individual water bottles.

“I’m hoping we don’t have to, but we’re ready to” comply with what restrictions might be in effect, King said. “We’re doing everything to make this happen.”

The fund is no stranger to COVID-19’s impact on the race. Last year, the fund had to pivot when the race was canceled — the only time that has happened in its long history. Instead, the fund hosted five dinners where people purchased meals that they could enjoy at home, with half of the $150 cost going to the fund.

While organizers said the dinners were a nice event during lockdown, they’re happy to be in person again for the race’s 41st year.

“It’s a great way for people to come out and give back to the community,” Moller said.