Note: CW – the following post contains discussion of alcohol use and traumatic injury leading to death.
Co-written by Vilmarie Narloch ‘09 and Dianne and Chris Williams.
McCrae Williams tragically passed away in September of 2017, while attending Lafayette College, where he was recruited to play Division 1 lacrosse as a goalie. Although his life was cut tragically short, he lived a life full of incredible experiences.
Wherever he went and whatever he did, he had a smile and an infectious spirit that transcended all. He had an unbelievable ability to connect with people of all ages. He was supportive and kind and never expected anything in return.
Sadly, McCrae died of blunt force head trauma resulting from a fall in his dorm room after attending a “lacrosse introduction” day-party at the lacrosse house at his school. After his fall, he was placed in his bed and was “Jansported” (also known as drunkpacking, backpacking or turtling), which is when a backpack filled with books or other heavy items is strapped to someone who appears drunk. The person is then laid on their side to prevent possible aspiration of their vomit.
In McCrae’s situation, he was then left alone until 4pm the next day, 22 hours after his fall, when some fellow students decided to get him into a car in order to bring him to a medical facility. The coaching staff found out what was happening and someone called 911. McCrae was taken to a hospital where he was later pronounced brain dead and passed away the following day.
McCrae’s family started the McCrae James Williams Foundation in his memory to advocate for Good Samaritan Policies across college campuses and to expose the dangerous practice of “Jansporting”.
[Image Description: Portrait of McCrae at his high school graduation ceremony]
In an effort to understand this practice of “Jansporting”, they have developed a survey for college students on backpacking and Good Samaritan Policies. They want to find out what students know about Jansporting, how prevalent it is, their knowledge of Good Samaritan Policies, and how comfortable they are calling for help when someone is in need of medical attention.
Thus far, McCrae’s family has collected about 900 responses and are hoping to collect even more. The responses will be used to help develop a media effort that will educate people on the practice of “Jansporting” and the importance of Good Samaritan Policies. So far, they are finding that young people are using this tactic as a substitute for calling for help. Additionally, they have found that athletes are significantly less likely to call for help, as they are often not afforded the protection of Good Samaritan Policies. In cases where student athletes call for help, their coaches or athletic department staff are often notified, which more often than not results in punishments such as suspensions from games or activities. Additionally, many students recognize the need to call for help in a particular situation but don’t out of fear of getting in trouble.
YOU can help McCrae’s family better advocate for evidence-based strategies at reducing alcohol-related harm by completing the short survey they have developed just for SSDPers! Each individual can earn 3 CAT Points for their chapter by completing this survey, and 10 CAT points for sharing this blog post to encourage others to take it. Points can be logged under the “Volunteer for an SSDP Event” category. Make sure you mention this survey or blog post in the description so we can accurately award your points.
Want to learn more about alcohol harm reduction? Check out our Just Say Know Peer Education Program! Want to learn more about Good Samaritan Policies? Check out how SSDPers have been advocating for Good Samaritan Policies on their campuses and in their communities! Have questions about the survey or anything related to alcohol harm reduction? Contact Vilmarie Narloch, Psy.D, Drug Education Manager. Have questions about Good Samaritan Policies? Contact Hannah Procell, Advocacy Fellow.
[Image Description: McCrae James Williams Foundation logo, containing his lacrosse number, 3, and his initials, M.W.]