Working Behind the Scenes to Help #SongStrong 5K
Working behind the scenes since 2018, Brandy Markovich is one among a group of remarkable volunteers supporting friends Kristin and Mike Song and the annual #SongStrong 5K, a shoreline event with a message that resonates in every town.
Brandy and her husband, Scott, are family friends of the Songs, who lost their son, Ethan, in 2018.
“Ethan was a very close friend of our older son, Logan,” says Brandy. “Basically, anything that I can do to help the Songs or make them smile, I’ll do it.”
Ethan passed away at age 15 in January of 2018 due to an accident with a gun owned by a father of a friend. From that tragedy, the Ethan Miller Song Foundation was created, and Ethan’s Law was passed in Connecticut. The law, which puts new requirements on gun owners to store firearms safely so they remain out of children’s hands, is now being considered at the federal level.
In addition to promoting gun safety and advocacy, the non-profit foundation develops and supports causes and programs to keep kids safe, including those on the dangers of opioid abuse and texting and driving, according to information at songstrong.org.
In March of 2018, to assist the Song family with the newly-created Ethan Miller Song Foundation, Scott and another Song family friend, Dan Montgomery, put their hearts into pulling together a fundraising 5K as race co-directors.
Together with their wives, Scott and Dan have continued to be among a core group of friends and volunteers who have not only kept the 5K going but growing.
“Everyone has a role,” says Scott. “Brandy is like the behind-the-scenes glue that holds us all together. She’s at Ashley’s doing packet-pick-ups; she’s putting out the lawn signs that you see around town. She’s helping to pick up all the shirts, sort all the shirt sizes, and put them in pre-register packets. And on race day, she’s there helping with all of those last-minute things, from registrations to volunteers.”
The 5K takes off from the Guilford Fairgrounds and runs a USATF (USA Track & Field) certified course that includes panoramic views of Long Island Sound and the historic Guilford Green. Well before the start of the race, Brandy’s out in the family Jeep, putting out race route signs. By about 7 a.m., she’s back at the fairgrounds, helping with set-up for the day.
While she’s comfortable working behind the scenes, Scott’s out there in the public eye, Brandy notes. On May 26, Scott and Mike appeared on television, thanks to race sponsor WTNH-News8. They spoke on CT Style to help promote the 5K and events planned for the day.
In addition to the 5K, the event includes a kids’ fun (9:45 a.m.) and post-race activities offering food, drinks, animal exhibits, face painting, non-alcoholic beer, music, a trophy ceremony, and more.
Last year, #StrongSong 5K came together as an in-person event for the first time since the pandemic shut it down. While pre-registration efforts had pulled in plenty of participants, Brandy recalls everyone was a bit concerned about whether the returning event would have the same day-of registration numbers. She didn’t need to worry.
“It was actually really crazy!” says Brandy. “We signed up a lot of people and handed out a lot of packets before the race even started. It was very busy, non-stop, right up until 10 o’clock.”
An estimated 1,200 people filled the event last year. With this year’s event on track to match last year’s numbers, the push is on now to encourage more people to register right up until event morning on Saturday, June 3. Online registration is available now at www.songstrong.org or runsignup.com/Race/CT/Guilford/SongStrong5K.
Brandy says a growing number of race participants are arriving from area towns, including Branford and Madison, to join in an event that has become an annual community experience for many Guilford residents and families.
“We’d like to draw more people from the immediate shoreline. That’s always the goal,” says Brandy. “I know the Songs don’t want Ethan to be forgotten, and this is how the community supports that, by showing up. Those are the kinds of things that keep them going.”
As a mom, friend, and community member supporting this cause, Brandy says she’s grateful for the opportunity to do what she can to help.
“I really just want to support the Songs because they’ve been through so much. I feel like it’s an honor to be involved. It’s part of our life now,” she says.