Sunny’s Story

A drug prevention book written by a mother who lost her son to a drug overdose from the viewpoint of the family beagle, Sunny. It's a great learning tool for kids, parents, teachers, and others.

Get Sunny's Story

Educational Programs & Curriculum

Learn more about Courage to Speak® substance use prevention education programs for Elementary, Middle, and High School students.

Request More Program Info

Stay in the Know!

  • Subscribe now to our newsletter and get the latest news and updates about our youth substance use curriculum and drug prevention programs in your inbox.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Lightfoot runners race in memory of Eaccarino

Andy Hutchison
Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Norwalk's Samuel Valencia, left, sprints to the finish of the 15th Annual Ian James Eaccarino Memorial -Mile Race.
Norwalk’s Samuel Valencia, left, sprints to the finish of the 15th Annual Ian James
Eaccarino Memorial -Mile Race. Also pictured is Wilton’s Steven Curceau. Valencia was
67th in a time of 1:20:39 and Curceau was 68th in 1:20:41. Contributed Photo / Andy Hutchis

Completing a 9-mile run is quite a feat, but participants in the 15th Annual Ian James Eaccarino Memorial 9-Mile Race last Saturday were running to accomplish more than fast times, personal bests or an age category award.

The race, which started and finished at Calf Pasture Beach, is part of the Lightfoot Running Club’s summer series, and is held in honor of Eaccarino, who died as a result of a drug overdose at the age of 20 back in 1996.

Longtime series participants Ginger and Larry Katz, Eaccarino’s parents, stay involved and are pleased to have the run held in honor of their son. Ginger Katz is the founder and CEO of the Courage To Speak Foundation, which develops drug prevention programs to assist schools and communities in Norwalk and beyond.

The winner of this year’s run was New Canaan’s 38-year-old Larry Ikard, who finished in a time of 56:12. Runner-up finisher Nicholas Avello of Westport, 25, completed the course in 1:00.03. In third place was Milford’s Nick Hennessey, 25, who finished in 1:00:35.

The next four finishers were from Norwalk. Javier Hernandez, 36, came in fourth in 1:01:05; Brennan Gerster, 37, came in fifth in 1:01:31; Lucas Finco, 34, came in sixth in 1:03:47, and Morten Kristiansen, 33, came in seventh in 1:04:26. Rounding out the top 10 were: Monroe’s Jeff Fetchick, 48, who placed eighth in 1:04:38; White Plains, N. Y.’s Michael Orth, 45, placed ninth in 1:05:00; and Norwalk’s Evan Lister, 50, came in 10th in a time of 1:05:38.

The top female was 11th overall. Poland, Ohio’s Jaclyn Disibio, 30, led the women in a time of 1:05:09. Diana Nordquist, 29, was Norwalk’s fastest female. She was 34th overall, and won in her age category of 20-29 year olds, finishing in 1:13:20.

An award encouraging healthy decisions and lifestyle is given to the youngest finisher. This year’s recipient is Trumbull’s Jack Tinker, 16, who placed 36th in a time of 1:14:26.

“It feels really great. It was my longest distance yet,” said Tinker, who runs cross country and track at Trumbull High.

Eaccarino worked at Calf Pasture Beach and his mom has fond memories of him there.

“Every time I come to the beach I have so much pain — pain in my heart,” she said.

One of the runners, North Haven’s Barbara Kowal, knows the Katz family because she, too, lost her son under similar circumstances eight years ago.

“I try to do it for Ginger every year,” said Kowal, 60, who was second in the 60-69 division.

Both Katz and Kowal refer to their group of parents who have lost children to drug-related problems as “the club nobody wants to belong to.”

Ginger Katz notes that races such as this one, or any athletic activity, or hobby for that matter, are great for people in recovery to have something to focus on and help them get through it. Her son had been doing well, and they played hours of tennis together while he stayed clean, she recalled, before getting back into trouble and losing his life.

“Sometimes making a decision is as simple as making a right turn or a left turn and this is definitely the right turn,” Ginger Katz said of the race.

“It’s great to be a part of this. It’s a great cause,” Ikard said. “I think it’s a worthy cause. I’m a parent. I have two kids so it rings true with me. It’s good to know you have to have these discussions and this does a good job of getting that message out.”

“I especially enjoy it because of what it represents,” 51-year-old Oliver Lawrence, of Norwalk, who placed 48th in a time of 1:17:31.

Norwalk’s Ron Dragotta, 42, placed 29th in 1:11:34. Dragotta has two small children and recognizes the importance of bringing attention to drug prevention among children. “It’s one of those things you don’t think about when you don’t have kids. But when you do that sort of thing is definitely on the top of your mind,” he said.

The race featured support from 32 volunteers at four water stations throughout the course as well as at the finish.

For information, visit For race series information, go to The next race in the series is an 11 miler, Aug. 17, at Silvermine Elementary School.