AYER -- When Janis Bresnahan's family discussed ways to remember and celebrate her life after her tragic death in a traffic accident several years ago, two of her cousins, Paula Jones and Betsy Dolan, suggested establishing a road race in Janis's memory, with proceeds slated for the local public schools.

The family agreed it would be a fitting tribute to the athletic, 1989 Ayer High graduate, whose "passion for helping children" led to working at Ayer's Kiddie Depot as a teenager, Kevin Bresnahan said.

It also set her career path. Janis studied early childhood education at the University of Maine and taught technology to elementary school students. She also loved the outdoors and often spent her spare time hiking, running or cycling, Bresnahan said.

Today, the Janis Bresnahan Run for Education, now in its 13th year, is a popular annual event and a major fundraiser for the Ayer Shirley Education Foundation, which provides grants to the district's four schools: Page Hilltop and Lura A. White Elementary Schools and Ayer Shirley Regional Middle and High Schools.

Grants such as the one that funded "Second Step" kits for Lura A. White Guidance Counselor Jayne Garrett to use in classrooms there this year. ASEF bought one kit per grade and the school district covered Kindergarten so there's consistency, Garret said, and all of LAW's K-5 students participate.

Second Step Skills for Social and Academic Success is designed to teach children awareness of others' feelings, how to manage emotions and problem solving, Garrett explained.


Lessons include songs, brain games, videos, discussion, posters and puppets.

Garrett credits ASEF and the race that supports it for a value-added program that wouldn't be possible otherwise. "Children would still have classroom guidance lessons, but without the generous support of ASEF, we would not have the engaging, research-based curriculum materials" Second Step provides, she said.

Kevin Bresnahan said that the success of the race and its importance to ASEF are gratifying to his family. "I don't think (we) expected that our race in memory of Janis would...have such an impact on our schools," he said.

The ASEF link came about coincidentally, as if meant to be.

"As it happened, Maureen Kilcommins and Michele Granger were at the time forming the Ayer Education Foundation," Bresnahan said.

It fit the family's intent perfectly and a partnership was born. The ASEF has been the sole beneficiary of race proceeds ever since. (AEF became ASEF when the regional school district was formed.)

Another affiliation that has continued from the first is that of Ayer-based North Middlesex Savings Bank, which has been the race's Premier Sponsor since its inception. After a recent merger and under a new banner, the bank is on board again this year.

"Most of our sponsors have been with us since the very first year," Bresnahan said. "We are very fortunate to have such great local companies...we appreciate all their support through the years."

Including the former NMSB, now Main Street Bank after merging with Marlborough Savings Bank. The new entity officially launched April 1.

Main Street Bank has pledged to continue its sponsorship, Bresnahan said, and the local branch is fielding a team to run in the race this year.

Main Street Bank President Walter J. Dwyer, IV, said the bank is proud of its partnership with ASEF and of the bank employees who volunteer their time to assist with various projects over the school year.

"Supporting the Ayer Shirley Education Foundation and its unwavering commitment to generate the financial resources to enhance local public education is very important and meaningful to us," he said, adding that ASEF has funded over 335 "educational and innovative programs."

"We believe there is no better investment than in the education of our children," Dwyer said.

Race Info

When: Sunday, May 21, 2017.

Where: Race start and finish at Ayer Shirley Regional High School, 141 Washington St., Ayer.

Registration and Volunteer check-in at the high school, 9:30 am

Event Lineup:

Tot Trot, 10:30 am (Grouped by age: under 2, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.)

Kids Activities: 11 am and throughout the event. 

2K Fun Run & Walk: 11:15 am (Open to all.)

5K Run: 12 pm (Age Categories: Under 10,10-14, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 50-59, 60 and over.)

Awards Ceremony following 5K Run finish.

Amenities: Lots of Fun Family activities, including Cookout, Live Band, Lego tables, Face Painting, Balloons and more.

Registration Fees:

- $15 pre-registration for 2K Fun Run, 5K Run and Walk.

- $20 Race Day registration.

- $10 Tot Trot

- No duplicate registration fees for tots to also participate in 2K.

Organizers urge Early Registration, allowing them time to plan.

Early Bird Perks: First 300 registered runners/walkers get short-sleeve 100% cotton event T-Shirts.

Prizes: $100 to the first place male and female overall finishers in 5K Run.

Prizes will also be given to top finishers in all age categories; 2K Fun Run and Walk are non-competitive.