The family and friends of Michael Taylor are determined to make an impact on the disease that took Taylor too soon. In the spring of 2016, Taylor lost his life after a long battle with opioid addiction. Taylor’s story is becoming an all too familiar tale for families in Connecticut and across the country.

In an effort to deal with the disease as proactively as possible, Taylor’s family and friends set out to create an event that could not only fundraise, but honor the memory and life of Taylor. They partnered with Shatterproof, an organization that works across the country to fight addiction and help those who are struggling. The For Michael event was born, and will take place on May 20 at Weed Beach.

One of the goals in coming up with a fundraiser was to create an event that Michael himself would have loved to be part of. “Michael and a group of friends that grew up together, every summer, they’d kick off the beginning of summer with a party, but this is meant to be a fun day that is hitting on other points,” said Frank Taylor, Michael’s father. The main event is a boat race, featuring over 20 teams. The catch is that teams have to build their own boat, on a very limited budget. Materials have been provided by Rings End, who is a sponsor.

“We have capped it at 21 boats,” said Will Herling, one of the organizers of the event. “We did got a boat of Darien tech ed department teachers,” Herling added. The boat will be captained by Darien teacher Jeromy Nelson, and organizers were thrilled that they were able to connect this event to faculty and students at DHS.

Following the boat race will be a silent auction, food trucks, beach games, and more. A dunk tank is proving to be quite popular, as Anthony Sweeney, a DHS history teacher, has volunteered to take the plunge for the cause. There will also be a performance by Tramps Like Us, one of the best Bruce Springsteen tribute bands in the nation.

The “For Michael” Fundraising event is set to take place on Saturday, but it could be said that it has already been a great success. Organizers of the event say that they have already raised $170,000, with donations still coming in, and the main event still to come.

“Our original goal was $150,000, but we want to raise as much as we can,” said Herling.

Shatterproof will have volunteers to help run the event, and the founder of Shatterproof, Gary Mendell will speak to open the day. Mendell lost his own son to addiction, which is what inspired the creation of Shatterproof. “He can bring tears to your eyes,” said Frank Taylor, who has heard Mendell speak on multiple occasions, and expressed a great deal of gratitude for Mendell’s involvement with the day.

One of the parts of the event that organizers are most proud of is that the day will be completely substance free. “The fact that it is made some sponsors very enthusiastic about having individuals from their programs volunteer to work the event,” said Frank Taylor, adding, “It’s been a very nice touch to the whole thing. Lighthouse and Silver Hill are two sponsors that just focus on addiction.”

“Shatterproof is providing volunteers, and this is totally in partnership with them,” added Herling.

Michael Taylor’s mother, Annmarie Squatrito-Taylor, is proud of just how far this event has come.

“It’s overwhelming and emotional for me.  Knowing michael, it would have been something he would have been in wholeheartedly.  He’s with us helping to steer this,” she said, adding, “I feel proud to be a part of it. But sad that he is not here.”

The event is Saturday, May 20, at Weed Beach. The welcome and the set up for the race happens at 1pm, with the race itself happening at 2pm. The silent auction also begins at 2pm, and offers a great deal of items from local businesses, artists, and many others. The concert from Tramps Like Us begins at 4pm, as do many of the other games. Parking at Weed Beach will be limited. Shuttle bus service will be available from Noroton Presbyterian Church and St. John’s Church on Nearwater Lane. Tickets are still available in advance, and are also available at the door for the event. Credit cards and cash will both be accepted.