Shannon McNamara 5K raises awareness of sexual assault

Bailey Flesner, Contributing Writer

The Shannon McNamara 5k run/walk will be held at 9 a.m. Oct. 29 as a way to honor the memory of an Eastern student who was sexually assaulted and murdered at her off-campus apartment in Charleston 17 years ago.

The event will be at the Rolling Meadows High School in her hometown of Rolling Meadows, Ill.

James Voyles, the administrator of the Shannon McNamara 5K, said he was a friend of McNamara’s brother’s roommate, and knew McNamara for about two years.

“She was the type of woman who could be friends with everyone, she really lit up the room when she walked in,” Voyles said. “You don’t find people like that very often.”

Voyles said since the tragedy happened right after graduation, McNamara’s mother was concerned the memory of her daughter would quickly fade. He said this race keeps her relevant even 17 years later.

Christopher Nicholas, a former Sigma Alpha Epsilon member, said he felt he could relate to McNamara because they were both kinesiology students.

“I first became involved with the 5K when I was a sophomore back in 2013,” Nicholas said. “Shannon was a kinesiology student and while much of Greek Life helps with fundraising and organization, the KSS honors club outsources goods from the Charleston/Mattoon area for the race.”

Even if you are not a member of these clubs, you can still volunteer, Nicholas said. Participating in the race, helping with advertising and handing out supplies are some of the many ways to assist.

Jacquelyn Wilson, an Alpha Omicron Phi member, said she began participating in the run to get involved in her sorority’s philanthropy and has been doing it for three years.

“It is a good cause and relevant for college students,” Wilson said.

It is essential to be aware of the possibility of sexual assault on or off of campus, even if we feel like it will never happen to us, she said.

Voyles said that the race profits about $3,000. The funds raised go toward a scholarship for student athletes from the Rolling Meadows High School.

“Coaches that see something in a student that they think Shannon too would have liked, and choose them to apply for the scholarship every year,” Voyles said.

McNamera’s best friend is given the scholarship applications and she decides every year who is most worthy of receiving it.

“As long as people come to the race, it will be hosted,” Voyles said.

Best costume prizes for kids, adults and pets, along with gift certificate awards for the 5K winners will be awarded at the run.

To find out more information about the race or to sign up for the run, go to


Bailey Flesner can be reached at 217-581-2812 or [email protected].