The Ben Bernier Memorial Foundation will host the first Ben Bernier Memorial Run, Walk and Toss at Pineland Farms next Saturday, October 9, in honor of Ben Bernier, who passed away in 2019, shocking the Brunswick community.
Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on October 9, Ben Bernier’s father, Lab Instructor and Manager of Bowdoin Science Center and Laboratory Safety Rene Bernier, his mother, Stephanie Bernier, his sister, Rachel Bernier, and much of the Brunswick community will gather at Pinelands Farms—located about a half-hour drive from the College—for live music, a 5k walk or run, disc golf and other types of entertainment and activities.
The event will include three live bands, food trucks and craft beers set up by Moderation Brewing Company, as well as a timed 5k race, 18 hole long and short disc golf and a family-fun walk. Because of corporate sponsorships, all of the funds raised at this event will go towards helping charities in the Brunswick area including the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program and Tedford Housing.
At the age of 34, Ben Bernier died suddenly due to complications related to an ongoing medical condition. The Brunswick community responded to this tragic news by adopting Ben’s selfless spirit of giving. In Ben Bernier’s honor, a group of residents began donating to local charities with the aim of combating under and housing insecurity.
In response to this outpouring of charity, Rene and Stephanie Bernier organized a memorial fund in his name earlier this year.
“We decided in the beginning of 2022 to make a nonprofit organization in Ben’s name so that we could manage these donations and get them out to institutions that help people in the Brunswick, Bath and Freeport area,” Rene Bernier said. “Rather than the foundation focusing on a particular charity, our focus is a particular area, right around Bowdoin College.”
After seeing her parents start the foundation, Rachel Bernier, had an idea. She’s always been a runner and wanted to put on a charity race in her brother’s name.
“We started out small,” Rene Bernier said. “But it just grew and grew into this. We said, well, we should include non racers, so we have the walk, and then there’s this amazing disc golf course. And we’re like, well, we get to do this, too. So it all kind of ballooned … But it was really [Rachel], through her efforts, that the whole thing came together.”
While tremendous support from corporate sponsorships allow proceeds from the event to go straight to the foundation instead of event preparation, donation size isn’t the Bernier family’s primary concern.
“Our real goal is to make people aware of the foundation and let them know that they can help [local] people,” Rene Bernier said.
Rachel’s friend, Helen Knudson, has been helping in the preparation of the event and will be volunteering at the 5k race.
“I hope that lots of people come and celebrate Ben and kind of kick off this event,” Knudson said. “I think we’re hoping to make it an annual thing and I think we’re well on our way to doing that.”
The event will include three live bands, food trucks and craft beers set up by Moderation Brewing Company, as well as a timed 5k race, 18 hole long and short disc golf and a family-fun walk. Rene Bernier raved about Pineland Farms, which is only a half-hour drive from campus.
Originally Rene, Stephanie and Rachel believed the event would only draw around twenty participants, but as word got out in the Brunswick community, it has reached 163 registrations and counting.
“He’s the kind of guy that if you were walking down the street, and there was a [houseless] person sitting there on the sidewalk, Ben would stop and sit down and talk to them, get their story and help them out,” Rene said. “He saw everybody as a valuable person … and he is sorely missed.”