Mud run — complete with leap through fire — to help fight addiction

A mud run in Voluntown later this month will help fight addiction while honoring the memory of a local man who fatally overdosed in January.

Norwich resident Ceci Iliff, founder of an events-based organization called The Charity Challenge, said the Down ‘N’ Dirty Dash is the “perfect” way to remember her late son, Benjamin, who earned the nickname “Danger Boy” by the age of 6.

The just-constructed course has walls of varying heights, a huge mud pit, a cargo rope and the “chain of pain,” a long obstacle that requires participants to crawl through mud underneath a chain link fence.

Participants finish the challenging 5K with a muddy leap through fire.

“From the time (Benjamin) was little, he was always trying to do activities he shouldn’t be engaging in, like jumping off roofs,” Iliff said. “In honor of him, this is the perfect event to have. It’s a way for people to take on these and their own obstacles.”

The mud run will be held at Tamarack Lodge, 21 Ten Rod Road, Voluntown, on Sunday, July 21. Registration is $50 a person, or $1,000 for a corporate sponsorship, and parking costs $10. Check-in begins at 8:30 a.m., the first wave of people into the course starts at 9 a.m., and the last wave starts at 4:30 p.m.​

Participants who bring a nonperishable food or unopened personal health or hygiene product for donation on the day of event will receive a $2 discount coupon toward clothing or merchandise.

Proceeds from the event — as with every Charity Challenge event — will benefit Veterans Rally Point, Safe Futures and TriCircle Inc., a Wallingford-based group whose goal is to create an individualized, 15-month addiction treatment program.

For more information and to preregister, visit bit.ly/VMudRun19.

Iliff said her organization has donated about $50,000 to local charities since its inception five years ago.

“I’m doing what I do best, which is plan events, and contributing the money to (TriCircle) and other organizations that are worthy,” Iliff said. “There are so many people doing so many good things.”

Iliff said she has wanted to host an obstacle race since she founded The Charity Challenge, but “it’s been tough finding a partner to help me make it happen.”

Enter John and Valerie Longo, owners of the Tamarack Lodge. The site hosted Iliff’s first-ever music festival last year and will host a second one in September.

Iliff said when she proposed an obstacle course on the 28-acre lot in the Pachaug Forest earlier this year, John’s “eyes lit up.”

“He embraced it,” she said. “We’ve been working our tails off trying to put the finishing touches on the course.”

Iliff said about six volunteers have helped clear the course, while six paid workers constructed and installed the obstacles.

“We needed professional carpenters to make it safe and epic,” she said of the course, which is permanent. “That part we didn’t want to take chances on.”

Iliff said some days are easier than others in terms of grieving over her son, who now is included in nonprofit Today I Matter’s traveling poster project. The project memorializes more than 100 Connecticut residents who fatally overdosed, with photos on 2-by-3-foot posters.

Iliff said Benjamin, who was an artist in addition to a daredevil, struggled with anxiety and depression. He spent much of his adult life in and out of treatment, she said, but seemed to have turned a corner before he died Jan. 11 in Gales Ferry at the age of 28, leaving behind a then 11-month-old son.

“So many who have suffered a loss (by overdose) are activists now,” said Iliff, who said she wants the dash to memorialize everyone who has died by overdose.

“Their grief has turned to activism, and they’re doing amazing things out there,” she said. “But even with all that effort and energy, I believe we’re still going too slow.”

l.boyle@theday.com

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