Matthew Rairdon in his nursing uniform. “There is not a picture where he isn’t smiling,” mother Laurie Rairdon says. Contributed

WESTBROOK — The Westbrook Strong 5K has been a beam of hope and community spirit for residents over the past five years, and this year, organizers Laurie and Gary Rairdon are hoping for the biggest race yet.

It’s been half of a decade since the Rairdons’ son, Matthew, a nurse, was murdered by an ex-boyfriend outside his Westbrook apartment. While not a day goes by that they don’t think of him, they’ve found solace in the fact that the community holds on to Mathew’s memory as well.

“We experienced tragedy, but we truly have been blessed, because out of that there has been so many blessings,” Laurie Rairdon said. “It still feels fresh to us … but it means so much how the people around us continue to remember and support us.”

The 5K, to be held July 13, raises money for scholarships for Saint Joseph’s College nursing students from the Westbrook and Greater Portland area, inspired by Matthew’s passion for nursing. He graduated from college’s nursing program. Recently, smaller scholarships have also been given to Westbrook High School students.

“We want to be able to take what he loved, and make that dream happen for others,” Rairdon said.

Last year the race had about 400 participants, but with even more sponsors this year, a total of 47 so far, the Rairdons hope to break 500 racers. Right now, the race has about 260 registered runners.

“We are certified now so we have our serious racers, but everyone is welcome. People walk, people bring their dogs,” Rairdon said. “I never see anyone go to the race and not have a good time.”

Racers and bystanders really build up the energy, she said, supporting one another.

“It’s like a wedding. There is that love and energy and then the finale of the race. It is bittersweet,” she said. “It is amazing to see everyone having a great time … I know up there Matthew is smiling in heaven.”

Race sponsors are varied, from larger companies to local mom and pop shops. A number of local sponsors donate because they had a special connection with Matthew.

He once worked at Mister Bagel, a race partner, and later would study there after hours.

Joanne Minor of Minor Moments Photography of Westbrook donates a portion of proceeds from all portraits taken in November to the cause.

“She began doing that as she realized the last portrait of us as a family with Matthew, she took,” Rairdon said. Joanne has been great to us, and all of it really adds up.”

For more information or to register for the 5K, visit www.westbrookstrong.org.

 

 

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