On April 7, 2015, the Illinois State University community was stunned and saddened by a tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of two Athletics Department staff members and five Redbird friends and supporters.
As the one-year observance approaches, the Illinois State Athletics Department encourages faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends to pay respect to those lost a year ago.
The wives, fiancés, and children of those killed have created Project 7, a grassroots movement encouraging seven acts of kindness in honor of the Redbird 7. Project 7’s Facebook page has already attracted thousands of fans, many of whom are committing to perform seven acts of kindness on April 7.
Lindsay Leetch, whose husband, Deputy Director of Athletics Aaron Leetch, was on the plane, spoke to The Pantagraph’s Randy Kindred about Project 7.
“We looked at it and we had two choices,” said Lindsay. “We can either dwell on the bad situation, or we can make the most of it. These guys had their own unique traits, but one common thing they all carried was their kindness.
“They were great friends, great colleagues, great human beings. Nobody can bring our guys back. But this is something you can do. It’s what they would want … move forward, press on and let’s make something good of it.”
Joan Stralow’s husband, Terry Stralow, owned Pub II in Uptown Normal. She told WJBC’s Bryan Bloodworth about Project 7’s purpose.
“Project 7 is seven acts of kindness on the 7th in memory of our seven wonderful men,” Joan said. “We’ve had such an outpouring of love and kindness and compassion for a long time and many, many people saying. ‘What can I do? How can I help you?’
“It’s hard to really answer that question. But in our conversations, we realized the common thread with all of these guys is their kindness toward everyone in many of the things they did and just because of the type of guys they were.”
Throughout the past year, Illinois State University and Illinois State Athletics have supported the families of the men lost and have honored their legacies whenever possible.
Illinois State student-athletes have worn patches with the “Redbird 7” logo affixed to them throughout the year, and coaches and staff members have worn lapel pins to honor their memories. In addition to the permanent outdoor memorial, a display has been permanently installed on the concourse of Redbird Arena with pictures and biographies of each of the men who passed away.
To learn more about the events of April 7, 2015, and the seven men who left us all too soon, please visit Remembrance.GoRedbirds.com.