Johnny Williamson was surely smiling down from the heavens on Sunday morning, Oct. 9, as the eighth annual Johnny’s Run for Life took place at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield.
It included Mass, a one-mile run and a 5K run in memory of Johnny Williamson, a 2005 graduate of O’Hara who died while attending Drexel University on Jan. 25, 2009.
While the run commemorates Williamson, it is also the annual fundraiser for A Baby’s Breath of Wayne, a crisis pregnancy center.
“This helps the organization and supports the children and what they’re going through,” said Father Vincent Morabito, a former Newman Chaplain at Drexel University, who presided over the Mass.
The sun did not shine that morning and a steady rain came down but that did not stop approximately 600 people from coming out to remember Johnny Williamson in his mission to choose life. The 8 a.m. Mass and celebration of Williamson’s life was scheduled to take place outdoors but due to the weather, it was moved to the school auditorium.
After the liturgy, the one-mile run was held on the school track followed by the 5K all over the campus grounds including past a cross erected in Williamson’s memory. Cardinal O’Hara’s cross-country and track coach Tom Kennedy, who previously coached Williamson, served as master of ceremonies for the day.
“Johnny was a great kid,” Kennedy said. “I was lucky to be his coach.”
Participating in Johnny’s Run for Life is always the high point of the season for the Regina Angelorum Academy cross-country team. Among the school’s runners was 12-year-old and seventh grader Anne Brown of Overbrook, who ran in the mile run for the fourth consecutive year.
“I’ve always wanted to be a good runner,” said Brown. “Johnny believed in what he did. I believe in what I do.”
O’Hara freshman and Regina Angelorum Academy graduate, Jacqueline Guerra, also ran the mile.
“Pro-Life is really important,” said Guerra. “We do everything we can to support it through this race.”
Williamson was very active during his years at Cardinal O’Hara. In addition to being a member of the track and cross-country teams while supporting pro-life activities, he was a member of the marching band and acted in the school’s fall and spring musicals.
Liam Galligan, a member of the Springfield High School cross-country team, prevailed as the overall winner of the 5K race, finishing with a time of 17:30. Susan Miller, 29, placed first among female participants in 20:04.
“I’ve always come out for the Williamsons,” said Galligan. “It’s for a great cause. O’Hara does a great job.”
Because the celebration is held on the O’Hara campus, it brings together the school community and aids the school’s mission to develop graduates of character, competence and confidence who are prepared to lead in this world and live forever in the next.
“It gives the kids the opportunity to display all three characteristics,” said Athletic Director Mike Donahue. “We’ll take advantage of it.”
As the day concluded and medals were distributed to all winners, Williamson’s parents, John and Donna Marie, were overwhelmed by the support of so many faithful people. They themselves are O’Hara graduates along with their other children, Elizabeth and Dan, as well as their siblings.
“It makes me cry, especially today,” John Williamson said about the celebration of his son’s life. “We really like O’Hara. I guarantee it will be even bigger next year.”