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Wheaton College 5K honors student killed in crash

Published: Monday, Oct. 1, 2012 9:39 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — A Wheaton College student who died last year in a plane crash will be memorialized at a 5K run as part of the school's Homecoming celebration this month. Ramie Harris, who would've been a senior at the school this year, was killed in November alongside her father, Ray, sister, Shey, and a friend, Chris Backus, after the small airplane Ray Harris was piloting crashed near Crystal Lake. She was returning to the college after Thanksgiving break from her home in Marion, Ind.

On Saturday, Oct. 6, hundreds of Wheaton College students and alumni are expected to wear purple gym clothes and wristbands in honor of her favorite color as they tackle the race, which is held every year during the college's Homecoming weekend, said an alumni director for the college, Emily George DeLew.

Harris' mother is expected to visit Wheaton from her Indiana hometown for the race, DeLew said. One of Harris' friends and Wheaton College President Philip Ryken are expected to make statements before the race begins.

Elise Vadnais and other student government members at Wheaton College came up with the idea of dedicating this year's Homecoming 5K to Harris and presented it to the Alumni Relations team. Vadnais was junior class president last year, and also served on the Student Care committee.

A friend of Harris' who lived near her apartment, Vadnais said she visited Harris' hometown after the plane crash and went to her funeral. Getting to know her life and how many people she touched, she said she felt it was necessary to honor her at the college. As the class' president, she led a discussion last year with her council how to best honor Harris.

"It was my hope that it would be healing or least comforting to her friends and to her family," Vadnais said.

Harris, who was 21 when she died, was described by the college's president in a statement last year as a devoted Christian who transferred to Wheaton College from Purdue University the year before. Harris, who was diagnosed with narcolepsy as a teen, carried around a Bible verse with her "to give her hope as she struggled with her limitations," said Ryken.

A tribute to her on the college's website describes her as a "curious, intuitive intellectual who pursued excellence in every part of life. She loved being active — especially running. She fought through, and overcame,

Participation is open. Those who are interested should register before the race begins at 8 a.m. Oct. 6 at the Wheaton College Welcome Center or in front of the college's Edman Chapel.

For more information, visit

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