More than two dozen members of the Cheshire High School class of 1980 have made a yearly pilgrimage to Cheshire Park for the past 12 years to honor one of their own.
Mark Steven Jardim was a senior vice president in the operations division at Zurich Scudder Investments and was attending a conference call on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center when the building was hit by an airplane during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Jardim died in the attack, at age 39.
A year after Jardim’s death, his friends, some from as far away as Canada and Florida, came together to honor him by literally running or walking on his footsteps. Jardim, a cross-country runner, like hundreds of Cheshire High School cross-country runners before and after him, trained on trails at Cheshire Park.
The Mark Jardim Memorial Jog has been held every year since at the same park, bringing together friends, family and members of the community.
In 11 years, the non-profit Mark Jardim Memorial Jog has raised more than $65,000, for different causes including: the Cheshire Police Benevolent Association, the Cheshire Community Food Pantry, Relay for Life, the boys and girls cross-country teams at Cheshire High School and many more.
Ben Henderson, an assistant cross-country coach at Cheshire High School, won Sunday’s race with a time of 17 minutes and 52 seconds.
As he has done every year, Jeff Stamp held the leash of his dog Sparky with one hand and an American flag in the other as he ran, finishing in just over 23 minutes. He didn’t know Jardim, said the Cheshire resident, but he brings the flag to honor him and his family.
“They lost somebody they loved just for being American,” Stamp said of the Jardim family.
For the Class of 1980, family members of Jardim and supporters, the event has become a reunion.
J. Jardim and his wife Kim have made every event, coming to Cheshire from their home in Silverthorne, Colorado. Their twin 11-year old sons, Mark and Steven Jardim, both named after their uncle and born after his death, ran with their dad on Sunday.
More than a dozen members of the Cheshire High School Class of 1980 ran on Sunday. Other members helped organize the event from signing up runners to running the race and cooking at the picnic afterwards.
“If it weren’t for this, we wouldn’t see each other,” said Jim Edson of Old Lyme, a Class of 1980 member, who said he’s run it every year.
Ed Gilhuly, an event organizer, has not missed one event, even though it falls on the same weekend as his daughter Ilan’s birthday. He said he caught a red eye flight north from his Miami, Florida home late on Saturday after celebrating his daughter’s birthday party.
Just as Mark, an easygoing man with lots of friends, would have wanted, they reminisce about the old days at Cheshire High School. Each year they get to play Wad Ball, a game a group including Gilhuly and Jardim invented in the late 1970s, a cross between Jai Alai and basketball that you play with a tennis ball.
“It’s a division three sport,” Edson explains with a big laugh.
After each run, they’ll have a barbecue under a white tent and play Wad Ball for hours, turning the jog into a day-long event.
“It’s a really nice way for everybody to stay in touch,” said J. Jardim.