Nicole Spewak | News Editor
Subfreezing temperatures did not deter over 350 alumni, students and community members from participating in the homecoming 5K run honoring former student Ramie Harris, who passed away in a plane crash in November 2011.
“Though I didn’t know her personally, we are all part of a community,” said sophomore Leah Watson, who ran the 5K. “If we can support and encourage her family through running, there is nothing I’d rather do on a Saturday morning.”
Runners congregated in Edman Plaza at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6. In Harris’s memory, every runner sported wristbands imprinted with the words “Ramie’s Run” in her favorite color, purple. Some runners were also clad in purple attire.
The race was “a reminder to continue to keep Ramie in our hearts,” said President Philip Ryken in the opening moments before the run was under way.
Harris’s mother was present at the event, and Ryken invited her to his side at the microphone as he offered a prayer. Runners then set off through a banner of purple balloons, tracing a course through the neighborhoods north of Wheaton College.
Post-race, participants regrouped in Edman Plaza for a balloon release.
Elise Vadnais ’13, last year’s junior class president and friend of Harris, reminded those present of the way Harris ran the race of life, asking them to remember her in thoughts and prayers as the balloons were released.
A moment of silence ensued as the crowd’s gazes followed the upward drift of the balloons.
“It was one of the most powerful moments I’ve witnessed at Wheaton,” Vadnais said.
Alumnae Megan Lantz ’01 and Katherine Karl ’06, who also ran in the 5K, said that the race and commemoration indicated the connection of alumni, students and the city of Wheaton.
“It is great to see Wheaton still loving people and celebrating life and memorializing what Wheaton is about,” Karl said.
Harris died during her junior year on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011, when a small aircraft carrying Harris, her father, Ray Harris, younger sister Shey, and Chris Backus, a friend, crashed in Crystal Lake, Ill.
A biography provided on the Wheaton College alumni website states, “Ramie was a curious, intuitive intellectual who pursued excellence in every part of life. … She valued others above herself as a testament to God’s loving kindness. Her gentleness and sweet spirit is missed by everyone who knew her.”
The idea of dedicating the homecoming 5K to the memory of Harris was proposed by last year’s Junior Class Council.
Vadnais said, “It fit who she was. She loved to be active. She loved running.”
The 5K idea was presented to the alumni association, who were “extremely helpful and enthusiastic,” Vadnais said. Through the partnership of the alumni association and the class of 2013 student council, the planning of the 5K came to fruition over the summer when Ryken and the city of Wheaton approved the race.
Chick-fil-A also took part in the event, donating 300 chicken biscuit sandwiches to be distributed after the run to the runners and the volunteers at the event.
Vadnais summarized the run, saying, “it was a morning of comfort and healing and celebration … I think Mrs. Harris, especially, and the friends of Ramie were very blessed and moved by the 5K.”
Photo credit: Brooke Greene
Printed in the October 12, 2012, issue of The Wheaton Record. Send comments to email@example.com.