BEACON FALLS — A race has been associated with the town’s annual River Fest for several years. This year will be no different, aside from the race being on land.
The Beacon Falls Lions Club is organizing Jill’s Race for MS. The race is set for May 14, the same day as the town’s River Fest.
The Naugatuck Valley River Race, which featured kayakers and canoers making their way down the Naugatuck River from Waterbury to Beacon Falls, used to be held in conjunction with the River Fest. However, the race was canceled the past two years due to river conditions and won’t be held this year.
“You can run in any weather, rain or shine,” Beacon Falls Lions Club President William Mis said.
The race is being held in honor of former Beacon Falls resident Jill Betkoski, who had multiple sclerosis and died 10 years ago at the age of 48. The money raised from the race will benefit the Connecticut Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“We have always been supportive of the MS association and those who are dealing with this crippling disease,” said Susan Cable, Jill Betkoski’s sister and former first selectman. “We are glad to bring a fundraiser of such magnitude to Beacon Falls. Not just in her memory but for all those who are suffering, not only locally but nationally. To have it in her name is an honor.”
Cable and her sister, Sally DelMoro, were Jill Betkoski’s main caregivers later in Jill’s life.
The race includes a 5K run, a 2-mile fitness walk, and a half-mile kid’s fun run. The race will start at the Pent Road Recreation Complex, 100 Pent Road. The fun run will start at 10 a.m. The 5K and fitness walk will both step off at 10:30 a.m. The registration fee for the fun run is $15. The fee for the walk and 5K is $25. People can register online at www.lightboxreg.com/jills-race-for-ms.
The 5K course will head down Pent Road to Lopus Road, go across the Depot Street Bridge, take a left onto South Main Street and then a right on Burton Road. The route will then travel through the neighborhood near Town Hall and end near Beacon Hose Company No. 1.
Mis said the first 500 people that sign up for the race will receive a raffle ticket for the annual duck race. Every person who signs up will receive a commemorative t-shirt, he said.
Trophies will be awarded to the top male and female finishers overall, the top finishers in each age category, and the first Lions Club member that finishes.
“We’re hoping that people will be generous and actually walk and raise money for MS,” Mis said.
The Betkoski family is well known in town. In addition to Cable being a former first selectman, Jill’s brother Peter Betkoski is a current selectman. Her brother Jack Betkoski is the chairman of the town’s Economic Development Commission. The family also been staunch supporters of the Connecticut Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Jack Betkoski is chairman of the chapter.
Jill Betkoski herself designed the town seal, which was adopted in 1971 during the town’s Centennial Celebration. She used to teach religious lessons at St. Michael’s Church until she had to stop due to her illness, Cable said.
Even when Jill Betkoski became so ill she had to move in with Cable, her smile still spoke volumes, Cable said.
“Although she didn’t have the ability to speak words, she had the ability to speak through her smile,” Cable said. “She never complained. Not one single day”
Cable said the family is thrilled the race is being held not only to remember Jill Betkoski but to raise money to help others.
“Even though she has been gone 10 years there’s not a day that goes by that we don’t think of her. She is a perfect example of an angel. We are glad people are recognizing that we were fortunate enough to have an angel in our life,” Cable said.