Daniel Barden Highland Mudfest – Honoring Sandy Hook Victims


Daniel was a special boy with a bright smile, a positive spirit and a natural desire to help others. “He was so compassionate,” Jackie says. “He was the type of kid who would invite a child who was sitting alone to join him at lunch.” Seeking a way to keep his memory alive, Jackie and her husband, Mark, decided to organize a fundraiser for Sandy Hook Promise (, a nonprofit that raises awareness about the impact of gun violence.

A mud run seemed like a fitting tribute. “Daniel was always running around barefoot and got a kick out of playing soccer in the mud,” Jackie says. Family friend Dan Williams helped set the wheels in motion for the first 5K and five-mile event, in April 2013. In honor of the lives lost, 26 torches illuminated the course, which had natural and man-made obstacles, including streams, steep ravines, barbed wire and, of course, mud pits.

The first two Mudfests raised $50,000 each, and Jackie plans to keep the run going. She and Mark are also working to keep Daniel’s giving spirit alive through the “WWDD: What Would Daniel Do?” Facebook page they created. Here, people around the globe record their random acts of kindness (simple things, like buying coffee for the customer behind you at Starbucks or holding the door for a stranger). “Daniel truly made the world a brighter place during his seven years here,” Jackie says.