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Arthur Christory / Gavel Media

Red Bandana 5K Honors Welles Crowther’s Life and Legacy

Over 700 runners came out to Boston College’s Gasson Quad this past Saturday to participate in the 18th Annual Welles Crowther Red Bandana 5K. The race is hosted by BC’s Volunteer and Service Learning Center (VSLC) in collaboration with The Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust, a foundation created in honor of BC Alum Welles Crowther and his heroic actions on September 11, 2001.

Known as “the man in the red bandana,” Welles Crowther ‘99 selflessly guided many who were trapped in the Towers to safety; Crowthers, however, was unable to escape and tragically lost his life. Trying to identify their hero, survivors began to speak out and express their gratitude through news outlets for any information on the man with the red bandana over his face—the man who saved their lives. Crowther’s mother, having heard no word from her son, knew this must be her boy who never left the house without his trademark accessory. In recognition of Welles’s bravery and to raise money for the trust, BC hosts a 5K run each year.

Before the race began, participants were greeted by Crowther’s mother Alison, his sister Paige, and the Welles R. Crowther director for the VSLC, Dan Ponsetto. Upon the group’s appearance on the Lyons Hall steps, the spirited group of runners broke into applause. All three thanked the participants for celebrating Crowther’s legacy and keeping his spirit alive. Alison Crowther, decked out in red bandana-patterned leggings, told the packed quad that “the support you give is huge.” 

Crowther gave the floor to her daughter, who relayed to listeners that this event came from very humble beginnings. “I would walk around at [Boston College] games around nineteen years ago,” Paige Crowther laughed, “and just try to get students to listen to Welles’s story.” Even though ESPN made her brother’s bravery widespread knowledge, Crowther said the red bandana culture “exploded at BC in the best way.” 

Ponsetto then excitedly waved runners off and told them to “run with Welles and have a great time!” No sooner had the words left his mouth when Gasson’s clock struck nine. To the chorus of the iconic building’s bells, a sea of red bandanas and “For Welles” t-shirts began making their way down Commonwealth Avenue. Once the runners completed their 5K journey, BC’s beloved mascot, Baldwin the Eagle, welcomed them back to campus.

The Crowther family remained on campus and took great care to speak to as many runners as they could, asking about the experience and expressing their gratitude. Volunteers and VSLC staff handed out water and snacks and encouraged runners to get their hands on a race t-shirt, a red bandana baseball hat, or even an embroidered red bandana tote bag. While the race finished up around 9:30, no one appeared to be in a rush to leave campus despite the early wake-up call. A sense of community and deep gratitude are not feelings that are easily walked away from. 

The symbol of the red bandana has taken on a life of its own and drawn participants from all across BC. Countless sports teams came ready to run; the men and women’s lacrosse teams (Welles Crowther played on BC’s team as a student) were on campus as early as 6:50 a.m. to show their support and help set up for the race. BC’s arts scene even made an appearance as the Common Tones a capella group sang the National Anthem to the admiring crowd. Students also ran in groups of friends or on their own.

“It was a really meaningful and motivating experience to see so many people waking up early to run for Welles,” said participant Ashley Shackelton, MCAS ‘24. “The speeches from his mother and sister give so much meaning to the Red Bandana events BC hosts and showed how dedicated the BC community is to honoring his story and sacrifice.”

 

Arthur Christory / Gavel Media

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Lover of brunch and the O.C. Cannot spell the word defeiently to save my life.

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