GREENSBURG — On a sun-kissed Saturday morning, more than a thousand adults and children gathered at St. Mary’s Elementary School for a day none will soon forget.
The first annual “On Eagle’s Wings” 5k run/walk turned out to be one of the largest first-time events of its kind in the state of Indiana, bringing people of all ages to the elementary school’s campus for a memorable event staged in memory of four prominent community members lost in a plane crash last year.
Many were family, friends, acquaintances and co-workers of Don and Barb Horan and Stephen and Denise Butz. Others never knew them, but came to support the community those four individuals loved and the overarching ideal for which they collectively stood: whole-hearted giving.
It was a cause that united a legion of supporters who ran, walked or simply cheered on those taking part in the Saturday morning spectacle.
The enormous turn-out surpassed even the wildest expectations of the event’s chairs, Alan and Kristy Lowe, Brian Wenning and Jeff Dougan.
“It’s all out of a story of love and support,” described Kristy Lowe. “It’s just incredible.”
The boom of a cannon set hundreds off on a determined sprint, many of whom were competitive runners. These entrants had their times tracked by electronic chips attached to their shoes. A timer beneath an arch of purple and yellow balloons – the favorite colors of Barb Horan and Denise Butz – counted the minutes and seconds until a winner crossed the finish line.
The first to do so was Oldenburg Academy student Taylor Reed, whose time of just over 20 minutes afforded him the honor of race winner. Others elected to take a more leisurely pace, finishing their walk a little more than an hour after it began.
But no matter their speed or competitive intent, Saturday’s participants gathered amid a festive atmosphere with all the trappings of a celebration. Children ran and played together before and after the race, adults chatted and shared stories, and familiar songs boomed through a loudspeaker. Some danced, some hugged, others wiped away tears as they remembered the loved ones who had brought them there.
Balloons drifted skyward while local pilot Jeff Elsner, a friend of Don Horan, flew high above, gathering aerial photos of the celebration. Far below, there was nary a face without a smile, hardly a moment without the sound of laughter.
At the request of the Horan and Butz families, all proceeds from the event will be donated toward the building fund for a brand new St. Mary’s church as well as the elementary school that opened last fall. The Horans and Butzes gave countless hours of their time to church and community events and were integral in helping make the new school a reality.
As their family and friends took in the spectacle Saturday morning, there was little doubt in their minds that those whose memories were honored that day were there in some form.
Kristy Lowe’s opening speech prior to the start of the race told the crowd their friends were looking down from Heaven’s golden streets, watching over all.
“And if you knew Don Horan,” Lowe said, “You know there’s a legion of angels walking with us today.”
Lowe recalled the events of the foggy December night in which the Horans and Butzes were lost in a plane crash for a small group of reporters, describing it as “a night that forever changed our lives.”
In the time since, the victims’ family and friends have rallied in support of the two young men and four young women who lost their parents that night, and have sought ways to ensure Don, Barb, Stephen and Denise will never be forgotten.
Saturday’s run appeared to be the culmination of eight months of effort aimed at doing just that.
And the faith that guided the Horans, Butzes and those who loved them was visible at every turn.
“They just had huge hearts and were very giving people,” Kristy Lowe said. “I know the four of them are up there, smiling down on us.”
Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056