During our Rotary Night Out at Mister Bagel, Mike Foley introduced our speaker, Gary Rairdon.  Gary and his wife Laurie have lived most of their lives in Westbrook and raised their family here. Gary has been involved in the Westbrook community for many years and is currently President of the City Council.
Gary & Laurie's son Matthew was the third of seven children, born July 17, 1991.  He was the first in his family to attend a 4-year college.  As a sophomore in high school Matthew spent 12 days at Barbara Bush Children’s hospital due to a back infection. Fortunately, it was treatable. When he left the hospital, he had decided that he wanted to be a nurse. He later applied to St Joseph’s College and was accepted.
During his high school awards ceremony, Matthew and his family were in for a huge surprise.  He was awarded a $36K scholarship to help him attend St Joseph’s. To put himself through college, Matthew worked three jobs while going to school, including at Mister Bagel. He graduated in May 2013, passed his RN certification in June 2013, and landed a job at Mercy Hospital where he had previously worked as a CNA. He got an apartment in Westbrook and was headed down his chosen career path.
Matthew Rairdon at 2013 St Joseph's Graduation
Matthew spent Thanksgiving 2013 with his whole family at his grandparents’ home on Forest St. At the time, no one realized this would be the last time they would all be together.  That Saturday, he was shot and killed by his ex-partner who then killed himself.
In memory of Matt, the family asked for donations in lieu of flowers, raising $16,000.  They decided they wanted to help another student like Matt had been helped. by offering a scholarship to a nursing student at St Joseph's, preferably someone from Westbrook. When they took this money to St Joseph’s to discuss setting up a scholarship, they were told that $25,000 would endow a scholarship. This is where the idea for the Westbrook Strong 5K first started – with friends and family who wanted to raise that extra $9000. The first race was held in July 2014 when 295 people ran.  They exceeded their fundraising goal to establish an endowed scholarship with $26,000.  
Gary Rairdon holding a Westbrook Strong 5K t-shirt
A total of $107,000 has been raised in the 5 races held through 2018. This year, the race will be held on Saturday July 13, on the weekend in before Matt’s birthday.  They have 48 ongoing sponsors and over 65 volunteers, with some local businesses providing in-kind donations. They hope to see 500 people participate this year - including runners, walkers, and people pushing strollers.
For more information or to support this organization, go to: https://www.westbrookstrong.org/