A Wheaton College homecoming 5K run in Wheaton this weekend will honor Ramie Harris, a former student who died in a , while traveling back to school after Thanksgiving break.
Her father, Ray Harris, 46, sister, Shey, and a friend, Chris Backus, 22, also died in the crash.
The college has invited the community to join students in honoring Harris by participating in something she loved: running in Wheaton.
Elise Vadnais, senior class president at Wheaton College, proposed the idea to honor Ramie Harris with the homecoming 5K after her death left a deep impact on her life.
Vadnais said she was just getting to know Harris, a Marion, IN native, when she passed away last year. "I went to her funeral in Marion, IN, and got to know (more about her)... My life was deeply touched by her and her family, and I wanted to remember her, especially this senior year," she said.
After throwing around ideas of ways to remember Ramie Harris, students decided on the 5K. "This was perfect because she loved running and loved to be active," Vadnais said.
She said she first met Harris when she transferred to Wheaton College and was "struck" by her beautiful blue eyes and beautiful spirit.
Harris was someone who challenged others to live a better life, she added.
"She really put herself into whatever she decided to focus on... She was very diligent, very studious, very rigorous and regimented with (her) workouts and she just loved caring for people. (She had) an immense capacity to love others."
At the school’s first chapel service after Thanksgiving break last year, Wheaton College President Dr. Phillip Ryken, staff and student leaders led the service of prayer and mourning the loss of Harris, her father, Ray Harris, her sister, Shey Harris and family friend, Chris Backus.
Ryken said his impression of Harris was that, “She was somebody who had a heart for people who were broken and hurting, and wanted to use her life to help people in that situation.”
David Malone, an assistant professor at Wheaton College who accompanied Harris and other students on the Wichita trip, wrote in a statement that he had the opportunity to get to know Harris during that trip.
“I found Ramie to be a thoughtful and earnest young woman who used her spring break to learn how to be of service to others ... (Like others on the trip) she became well acquainted with the needs of the hurting and broken, which helped form future career plans," Malone wrote.
Ryken said he learned from Harris’ mother that she gave her life to Jesus Christ as a freshman in high school when she was diagnosed with narcolepsy. To deal with the limitations and distress the disorder caused, Harris would copy verses of the Bible to carry with her and give her hope.
“Sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers by giving us what we want for us. Sometimes he answers them by giving us what he wants for us," Ryken said.
Rebecca Queen, a senior and executive vice president of student care who read a prayer in chapel, said the loss of a fellow student was a shock to the close-knit student body.
Dave McHale, a senior student chaplain who knew mutual friends of Harris’, also read a prayer at the chapel service.
“No one was expecting this. … It’s going to be on people’s minds today and in coming weeks," he said last year after the service. "As long as we stay together and come together and love each other I think the Lord will be gracious to us and faithful and present with us.”
In celebration of her life, participants will receive purple ribbons (Ramie's favorite color) to sport during the run. Vadnais said as of Friday, about 120 people had signed up for the run. "We're hoping to have around 200," she said.
Registration is $10 per person and includes a Homecoming t-shirt. Online registration is available at alumni.wheaton.edu/hc5kregistration through October 5. On-site registration and check-in for alumni takes place Friday, October 5 at the Homecoming Welcome Center in the Phelps Room in the lower level of the Todd M. Beamer Memorial Student Center at 421 Chase Street in Wheaton.
See which roads will close during the race Saturday morning.
Race-day registration and check-in begins at 7:15 a.m at Edman Plaza. Refreshments will be available at the finish line for runners and there will be a balloon release at 8:45 a.m.