BY MARY KAY SWEIKAR
Stacy Dudley and Larry Wells met each other in 1979 during a summertime flag football game at Danville High School.
“The first thing I noticed about Stacy was that she played to win,” Larry said.
Now, 34 years later, the six members of the Wells family still “play to win” in a variety of competitive sports events that they enjoy doing together.
Larry and Stacy’s grown children include Matthew, 23, Daniel, 20, Rachel, 17, and Hannah, 15.
The couple married after they graduated from Illinois State University in 1985.
“We had so many things in common right from the beginning,” Larry said. “I’d say that happiness is being married to your best friend — and that is Stacy.”
Larry has a degree in business administration and has worked at Fiberteq for the past seven years. Stacy has been a stay-at-home mom for many years, but she formerly worked 13 years at Walgreens Accounting.
Matthew is living at home to save money while he drives to Champaign daily to work at Litania Sports Group. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University last May, where he majored in business administration and marketing. As a student, he also played for and coached the school’s basketball team.
Daniel, a junior business major at Olivet Nazarene, excels in track and cross country on his college teams.
After graduating from First Baptist Christian School in May, Rachel will attend Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown, Wis., where she will major in elementary education. Hannah is a sophomore at First Baptist.
For the first time, all the Wells family members ran together in the Siberian Express run at Kickapoo Park on Jan. 5.
Daniel beat out about 500 other runners by completing the 7.49 mile run in 45 minutes and 41 seconds, which was 9 seconds better than the second-place winner.
All the members of the Wells family belong to the Kennekuk Road Runners, and they love to compete in all types of running events.
Larry puts in about 1,500 miles a year, which is about 5 miles a day, jogging around Danville.
“I really got interested in running when Daniel wanted to be in a 5-K run when he was 8 years old,” he said. Larry credits the Kennekuk Kid Runs for sparking his children’s interest in running.
Then there is Buddy, their 7-year-old Jack Russell terrier, who diligently runs alongside Stacy during her daily 4-mile jogs.
“All I have to do is put on my running clothes and Buddy is right there, ready to go,” Stacy said.
Rachel has participated in many local races over the years, including a half marathon.
“I feel that sports is contagious and it teaches so many lessons — teamwork, patience and endurance,” Rachel said. “It must be in our family’s blood.”
Even though she and her sister, Hannah, have played a lot of basketball and soccer through the years, volleyball is their sport of choice.
Stacy and Larry are longtime volunteer coaches at the Danville Tennis Center. Stacy has played competitively since high school.
Stacy said they consider Calvary Baptist Church more than a second family, adding, “Our church is our family.”
Larry is a deacon at the church. He and Stacy work with the youth group there and teach Sunday school to first- and second-graders. Larry and the boys referee for the Upward Basketball program, and Rachel and Matthew help coach. The two girls also co-teach “Children’s Church” together.
Hannah and Rachel have regularly participated in the Teens Involved competitions with their puppet ministry, dramas, music ensemble, and praise team.
They also trade off playing the piano and guitar for the praise team. “They’ve played piano since first grade, but the guitar was self-taught,” Stacy said.
The Wells family loves to travel together, but as expected, they try to fit in sports as much as possible when they’re away from home. They always pack their tennis racquets and running shoes, and they were especially happy to find clay tennis courts and attend a Blue Jays game while they were in Ontario, Canada. On some vacations they rent boats and go skiing and tubing, and they often find the time for some kayaking and golf.
The family also traveled in two groups to London and Paris, where they took in a tennis match at Wimbledon and the French Open in Paris.
They support the local sports teams — Cubs, Bears, Bulls and the University of Illinois. “We hardly get time to watch any TV,” Matthew said, “but if our TV is on, it’s usually some type of sports game.”
Larry and Stacy have a lot of family living in the Danville area.
“It was nice for our kids to grow up knowing their grandparents, Dolores Wells and Norma and Dick Burch,” Larry said. “And Danville is a pretty place to live with all the parks and lakes. I don’t think that people always appreciate what we have here.”
Larry added, “As a family, we’ve been truly blessed. Our focus is our faith and trust in God, and that helps us to cope with any adversity that comes our way. In Psalm 46:10, God’s words read: ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ These are words that we live by every day, because our lives are in God’s hands.”