The Times Leader was present at the 2016 Eric J. Williams Memorial 5k Run and Walk to learn more about the scholarship program. Hundreds of participants gathered on a Saturday morning to run, walk, and pay tribute to Eric Williams, who continues to be honored and remembered after the tragic event that took place.
The Eric J. Williams Memorial 5k Race
NANTICOKE — The sun beamed down Saturday morning on approximately 100 runners supporting a slain corrections officer and his family.
The Eric J. Williams Memorial 5K Race was held at Luzerne County Community College, attracting members of various law enforcement agencies, community members, family and friends.
Participants were able to walk, run or jog around the perimeter of the college, not only for the chance to win a trophy and bragging rights, but for the possibility to win a $1,000 scholarship for the school of their choice.
“I’m happy for the opportunity to raise awareness of the safety of corrections and law enforcement officers,” Eric’s father, Don Williams, said. “Last year, we were able to give $11,000 in scholarships throughout the year.”
Eric Williams was a corrections officer at U.S. Penitentiary at Canaan in Wayne County, who was murdered by an inmate on Feb. 25, 2013. Since then, Don Williams and his wife, Jean, have been spreading a message of awareness and demanding higher safety measures for corrections and law enforcement officers across the nation.
The couple’s efforts have seen the passing of the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act of 2015 in February and the creation of Voices of Joe, and advocacy group honoring their son and two other fallen officers.
The race actually took place at three locations — Nanticoke and two locations in Texas.
“We have trophies and medals for winners, and everyone who registered goes in the drawing to win a scholarship for the college of their choice,” race committee member Courtney Bogarowski said. “Even though the race is centralized in Pennsylvania, we do incorporate every school across the country, so if the winner chose a college in California they get the scholarship.”
The event was sponsored by Voices of Joe and the Eric J. Williams Scholarship Fund, along with several corporate and business sponsors. All proceeds from the race go toward the scholarship.
Bogarowski added that the scholarship money specifically aides students going into a criminal justice/law enforcement field, and that one winner will be chosen from the three races the first week of June.
As for the race winners?
It was a tie with Justin Agustini, of Nanticoke, and Dave Houssock, of Plymouth Township, crossing the finish line together.
Don Williams said he appreciates everyone coming and supporting the memory of his son.
“I want to express my appreciation for everyone coming and participating, and for our sponsors,” he said.