Charity track meet to honor toddler

DANVILLE – When Steve Luke heard that 2 1/2-year-old Reagan Williams was shaken to death last July, he wanted to do something to help.

After all, he knew the toddler's grandfather, Greg Williams, from when they were kids and from working together at Danville High School, where Williams taught English.

"Greg's a lifelong Danville guy," said Luke, a social studies teacher and boys' track head coach.

"Danville's such a tight-knit community," he added. "When a tragedy like this happens, it kind of touches everybody. This just seemed like something we could do."

Luke was referring to the Reagan Williams Invitational, which he has organized. The McDonald's restaurants in Vermilion County are sponsoring. It will be held on Saturday at the high school field house.

All proceeds and any other donations will go to Reagan's Rescue, which supports Shaken Baby Syndrome awareness, domestic violence awareness and education and Your Family Resource Connection and Toys for Tots programs.

The fund was established by Williams; his wife, Marsha; and Reagan's maternal grandparents, Gary and Becky Green. In an e-mail, Williams wrote that they've raised more than $5,800 from the sale of the pink-and-purple Reagan's Rescue bracelets and from other donations.

Williams called the meet "a great honor."

"This effort is another indication that we have many positive activities going on at the high school and that the great majority of our students are kind and generous whether on the field, on the track or on the stage," he wrote. "We are also indebted to the sponsors and the volunteers for giving so much."

The Danville team will play host to teams from Bismarck-Henning, Georgetown-Ridge Farm, Hoopeston, Schlarman, Oakwood and Rantoul.

"It's all local teams," Luke said, adding many probably have heard of Reagan's death on July 2, 2006.

Reagan died suddenly, after being in the care of her mother, Tracy Green, and Green's then-boyfriend, Ryan Allhands. A forensic pathologist said the Tilton toddler died from "closed head injuries consistent with being shaken."

The Vermilion County State's Attorney's office and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services both are investigating her death. Nearly 10 months later, no arrests have been made.

Luke was moved to organize his first charity track meet nine years ago, when he coached football and track at Waubonsie Valley High School in the Chicago suburbs. In 1997, Jeff Still, his assistant football coach, was killed by a drunk driver. The next fall, three female students, including two he taught, were killed in an accident.

Luke joined forces with the local Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization to form "Athletes Against Dangerous Decisions."

When he took over as head track coach, he established the Red Ribbon Class meet, now in its ninth year.

When the Danville native returned home to work at his alma mater in 2005, he was looking for a worthy cause that his team could get behind. He hopes the invitational will be an annual event.

"I always believed it was important for meets to have a reason," he said.

Williams wrote that Luke's e-mail on the idea for the invitational was waiting for him, along with a letter from a former pastor and another from his mentor, when he returned to school after Christmas break. At that time, his family had just marked their first holiday season without Reagan and were faced with what would have been her third birthday, which was soon approaching.

"When I was at my lowest, these three messages lifted me up and gave me hope to continue," Williams wrote.

He later added, "I find comfort in knowing that we'll gather in Reagan's memory and that she may be looking on, clapping and cheering in some corner of the stands."

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