Jun 14, 2014

Hundreds race to honor slain Cathedral student, combat youth violence



Story and photos by Terence Hegarty

SPRINGFIELD –To honor the memory of a Cathedral High School student who was murdered four years earlier,more than 200 participants gathered in Forest Park here the morning of June 14 for the “Honor Conor 4 Miler” road race.

Conor Reynolds, a 17-year-old senior at Cathedral, and star soccer player, was stabbed to death March 13, 2010 at a club in Springfield as he was attempting to break up a fight.

“It’s a great turnout. We’re shocked by the number of people that have shown up,” Liam Reynolds, Conor’s father, told iobserve. The 9:30 a.m. fundraiser featured scores of participants, including many of Conor’s Cathedral classmates, who wearing tee shirts that were printed in Conor’s memory.

Race officials estimate that more than $8,000 was raised via the race/walk and the party afterward at Springfield’s Nathan Bill’s Restaurant and Bar.

The hilly course wound its way around Forest Park, starting and ending near Cyr Arena. Participants who were not up to the four-mile challenge had the option of walking a one-and-a-half-mile course as part of the event.

Proceeds from the fundraiser went to Honor Conor, Inc., a 501c3 charity established in April, 2010. It is designed to stem youth violence. “We’re just excited that we’re raising money for Honor Conor,” Liam Reynolds said.

Honor Conor addresses the problem of youth violence by promoting participation in sports. The charity funds scholarships to Cathedral High School and to colleges. A range of other assistance is also offered through Honor Conor, including paying for youths to go to sports camps.

“We think that getting kids involved in youth sports keeps them out of trouble,” Liam Reynolds told iobserve. He said that the walk/run was a great testimony to his son.

Liam and his wife, Kate Reynolds, raised three boys; Brennan, Conor and Ryan. Liam was a soccer coach with Holy Name Parish in Springfield for years and coached his sons. He said that he has seen firsthand the value of keeping kids in organized sports.

Mark Hegarty, of Springfield, won the race, finishing in 21 minutes, 23 seconds. The 2012 Cathedral graduate said that finishing in first place was especially meaningful for him.

“I wanted to win because of what it means for Cathedral,” Hegarty said, “do it for Conor.” Hegarty was one year behind Conor at Cathedral.

“I was a junior when everything happened, and it really took a toll on the whole school and community,” he said. “So, I wanted to be the one to come out here and win the first (Honor Conor) race ever for Conor.”

The first woman finisher was Meaghan Mathews-Hegarty, of Springfield, who came through the finish at 25:50. Mathews-Hegarty is a member of Cathedral’s Class of 2000.

“It’s a really good cause to be out here for the Reynolds family and the Cathedral family,” she said. “It’s a cause close to our hearts.”

Mathews-Hegarty, who has a one-year-old daughter, told iobserve that minimizing youth violence is especially meaningful to her now that she is a mother.

“The (Honor Conor) fund sounds really important in keeping kids involved in sports and other things that are going to keep them busy and off the streets and away from violence,” she said.

Speaking of his son’s character, Liam Reynolds said that Conor “was always defending the underdog.”

“Conor was murdered trying to break up a fight,” he recalled. “He hated bullying and, so, it’s not surprising that he got involved in trying to break up a fight. The result was the most tragic thing that ever happened to us,” Liam said. “(It) had a huge impact on the community.”

And that community responded, not only in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, but ever since.

“Here we are four years later and we still have a lot of people involved,” Liam Reynolds said. “It’s a lot of fun to see all these people come out and support our organization. We’re thrilled.”

Organizers said that they are planning to make the road race an annual event.

Further information about Honor Conor, Inc., can be found at honorconor.org.

For more on this story, tune into an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.