Krush Chair Chris Owens has had a lot to cheer about in his four years

By Erin Foley

In his time with the Orange Krush, Chris Owens has sat courtside at Assembly Hall for 62 men’s basketball games. He witnessed Illinois’ come-from-behind miracle win against Arizona at Allstate Arena and then watched as it tried to do the improbable in St. Louis – win its first-ever national championship. The senior in finance traveled to Chapel Hill for the team’s rematch with North Carolina and also to Phoenix for a highly anticipated meeting with the Wildcats. And it was his responsibilities within the Illini Pride Executive Board that gave him those opportunities.

As a dedicated member in Illini Pride his freshman year, Owens wanted the chance to express ideas that he thought could improve Illinois’ student-run basketball cheering section. Since then, Owens has served as an Orange Krush chair in 2004-05, the Orange Krush Foundation President the following year, and this past year, as an Illini Pride Senior Adviser.

“It’s been wonderful,” Owens said of his involvement. “Not only do you know, inside-out, how Orange Krush works, but just to be able to say you where there when (Illini Pride) went from being 700 people to 1,500 people and you were part of that.”

Although Owens admits he has gained a number of leadership qualities from his positions, what has been most important are the friends and those in the community who have affected him, he said.

Since the Orange Krush Foundation began eight years ago, Krush members have raised and donated more than $1 million to charity. While Owens has been with the organization, the Krush has completed the Matthew Heldman Scholarship Fund, is in the process of fulfilling its commitment to the Rod Cardinal Spots Medicine Fund and recently created the Louis and Dawn M. Weber Student Manager Enhancement Fund.

Its donations to 38 charities have been instrumental in assisting those in Champaign-Urbana, but donations to such nationally renowned groups as the V Foundation for Cancer Research have people across the country taking notice.

“I always tells people its one thing to see Brian Randle make a thunderous dunk, but it’s completely different to say that money that we donated, which we just gave to a lady (from Warm-A-Kid), she is going to buy 600 jackets for kids – kids who weren’t warm before and now will be warm.”

In addition to enjoying the charitable work the Krush strives for, he has relished the group’s ability to invade opposing arenas at will. Most recently, the Krush traveled 12 hours to Happy Valley to watch the Illini play Penn State.

It was more of the same last year and in 2005 as Illinois invaded Iowa and Michigan. Their antics have made the home team feel like the visitors, Owens said.

“It’s flattering for us,” Owens said of the road trips that have become notorious. “We’re making people change their policies that have been around for 10, 20 years because they want to make sure they do whatever they can to keep Krush out.”

Even though Ownens’ positions within the organization have evolved from running the Krush to taking on more of the role of an overseerer, he says he feels fortunate for the chance to do something he knows so many would have “loved to do.”

“To meet all these people, see all these basketball games, work on being in a leadership position, work on handling criticisms of the organization and criticisms of yourself, in a form were you don’t have to be there, but a situation where you want to be there, just was a really, really good experience for me,” Owens said.