BY ANDREA VanVALKENBURG
---- — CHAZY — James Wilson celebrated each day with a passion for life, his loved ones and the outdoors.
Whether it was plastering his family’s home with hundreds of holiday lights each December, taking his motorcycle out or strapping on his running shoes, the Chazy native relished any reason to be outside.
As a teen, James discovered a fondness for running and often trained with his three siblings near their Lake Shore Road home.
Now, Jamie Billiter, Jennie Cody and Joel Wilson will once again hit the beaten path, this time without their brother, but united in his memory.
James, 26, was killed last June in a motorcycle accident that left his family, coworkers and friends devastated by the loss but motivated to honor a man who had always dedicated himself to helping others.
“What a heart he had,” said his mother, Beth Wilson. “He always saw the good in what was being done and was a very caring person.”
In that spirit of positive action and generosity, his family and coworkers at Jeffords Steel created the James Dean Wilson Scholarship Fund at Clinton Community College.
Now, they have now organized a race to honor the industrial draftsman and help local high-school students follow in his academic footsteps.
The Strides for James Fun Run, a 5-K/10-K run, 1-mile walk and children’s fun run, will be held Saturday, May 11, at Point au Roche State Park in Beekmantown.
More than 100 people have already signed up for the race, including James’s siblings, who will set out on the 5K.
All proceeds will benefit the Scholarship Fund, which was created a month after his death and has already raised more than $11,000 to help future students heading into the Industrial Technologies Program at CCC.
For James’s father, Dean Wilson, the scholarship is a reflection of his son’s legacy of selfless giving. He said the run “is something I’d like to see continue and grow.”
As he tearfully remembered his son, Dean said he has been moved by the actions of everyone who has honored his memory, especially Larry and Judy Jeffords, who own Jeffords Steel and watched James grow up and later mentored him in the trade.
“They’ve made a major commitment to James’s memory, and I can’t thank them enough,” Dean said.
Jamie said the overwhelming community support “has been truly amazing.
“It’s brought a sense of closeness between so many people,” she said.
“We knew what James meant to us, and he never wanted to be in the spotlight, but now we hear about all these things he did for so many people, and it’s been just incredible.”
Noelle Eichenberger, a former coworker of James who helped spearhead the race, said the upcoming event has already been well received by the community and area businesses, who donated everything from wine baskets and a photography session to jewelry and Burton snowboarding gear for the prize drawing.
“It’s been so nice to see how kind and generous everyone has been.”
And knowing the event and scholarship will help aspiring college students for years to come has brought something truly special from the heartbreaking tragedy, Jamie said.
“He’d be so happy to know he’s still helping someone.”
STRIDES FOR JAMES
Strides for James will be held rain or shine starting with a 1-mile children's fun run at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 11, the 1-mile walk at 9:10 a.m. and the 5K/10K run at 9:30 a.m.
All participants must be present and signed in at least one hour before their specific run or walk start time. Registration is $10 for children and those under 18; $30 for families; $10 for the walk and $20 for the adult 5K/10K.
A race T-shirt is included in the registration fee. Additional shirts can be purchased for $10.
For further information or to register, contact Noelle Eichenberger at email@example.com or at 593-4000.