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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Observer

'The embodiment of Big Stanford Love': Stanford Hall to hold memorial 5K for former RA Chris Westdyk

Stanford Hall will host a 5K run and cookout Sunday morning in honor of Chris Westdyk, a former Stanford resident assistant (RA) and member of the class of 2019 who died in June 2019 after a long battle with cancer.

Westdyk’s father and director of Campus Ministry Fr. Pete McCormick — Stanford’s former priest-in-residence and a friend of Westdyk’s — will speak prior to the 12:30 p.m. run. A cookout on North Quad, complete with food and music, will follow the 5K.

The men of Stanford Hall will host the first annual Chris Westdyk Memorial 5K on Sunday in honor of former RA Chris Westdyk, an avid runner and member of the class of 2019 who died on June 3, 2019, after a battle with cancer.

Sophomore Stanford resident Joe Hunt took the lead in planning the run alongside a team of fellow Stanford Griffins. He said a 5K is the perfect way to celebrate the life of Westdyk, who was an avid distance runner and member of the Notre Dame Running Club. 

“[The 5K course] starts in front of Stanford … and wraps around the lakes,” Hunt said. “I wanted to touch all of Chris’s favorite spots on campus, so it’ll pass the [Alliance for Catholic Education] building, it’ll pass the Grotto, it’ll pass the basketball arena and the football stadium because he was an avid sports fan, and it’ll also pass the Jordan Hall of Science because he was pre-med and was planning to teach science.”

In planning the run, Hunt said he spoke with many people who knew Westdyk, including friends from Notre Dame, Stanford’s former rector Justin McDevitt and people at ACE, the organization at which Westdyk interned because he planned to teach science after his graduation. Hunt also spoke with Westdyk’s father.

“It was really cool to learn more about Chris from one of the best perspectives you could have — a father talking about a son,” said Hunt, who first learned of Westdyk’s story after reading a news article about him on display in Stanford. “I wanted to make an effort to learn more about him before I planned anything for him.”

Stanford Hall president sophomore Layton Hall said the dorm planned to host a run honoring Westdyk in 2020, but it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He hopes Sunday's run becomes a long-lasting, annual tradition.

“First and foremost, this event is to remember who Chris Westdyk was and what he meant to the people around him,” Hall said. “Our senior class is the only class to … know Chris, but his impact on our community hasn’t stopped with them. ‘Big Stanford Love’ is something we always say. It represents the tight bond of our dorm community — no matter who you are, you are loved and welcomed with open arms.”

Hall added that Westdyk was “the embodiment of Big Stanford Love.” While battling cancer, he served as an RA and Welcome Weekend captain and designed the dorm’s flag and banner.

Students, faculty and community members can sign up for the 5K online using the link in the bio of the Stanford Hall Instagram page. Registration is $10 and all proceeds are donated to Fred’s Team, a running program that raises money for cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. 

Hall said he hopes the event will encourage people to embrace “everything Chris stood for” and continue to promote a culture of inclusion, acceptance and celebration in Stanford.

“Chris was Notre Dame. Chris was Stanford Hall,” Hall said. “Despite all of his challenges with cancer, he was there with his section and continued to participate in the numerous activities he did. Chris showed dedication to others and the broader community … By honoring Chris, I think we are only continuing that culture of Big Stanford Love.”