Charles “Charlie” Downs (Class of 1948) - 2023 Hall of Fame Inductee
Charlie Downs knows a little something about fundraising. In 1967, he served on the committee that raised funds to purchase Huber Hospital. In 1976, he served on the committee for the renovation of the facility now known as Pana Community Hospital. Charlie has been a member of and served in leadership positions – which involved fundraising of some kind - in the following organizations: Pana Lions Club, Pana Chamber of Commerce, Pana Board of Education, Pana Swimming Pool Board, First United Methodist Church Board, Peoples Bank Board of Directors. But for this award, one of the organizations he helped raise money for was the building of the all-weather track at Pana High School.
In 1996, Charlie led the effort to raise money to replace the cinder track used by both the junior and senior high athletes. Kevin Duez had this to say about Charlie’s involvement with the all-weather track:
"Let me begin by saying the building of the all-weather track at PHS was truly a community effort. The generosity of the businesses and citizens was incredible. That being said, there needed to be a catalyst – and Charlie was that catalyst! The track started with him. Charlie was the first to say we could do this, and he went out and got donations of money, materials, equipment, and labor to get it built. He got the ball rolling with about $50,000 in donations that he secured before talking to us about building the track. Charlie’s vision, powers of persuasion, and determination were critical to this project."
Many of Charlie’s involvements circulated around sports. During his sons’ childhood, Charlie was a coach for Pana Farm League – a youth baseball team sponsored by the Lion’s Club in the 1960’s. He and his wife organized the Rose City Classic – a foot race held for many years on Labor Day – and served as its leader. It was a showcase for distance running in Central Illinois. The race was later turned over to the Pana Sports Booster Club as a fundraiser for club activities. Along with serving for many years as a volunteer timer for the Pana Open Track Meet, he helped with all other big meets Pana hosted over the years, as well as the dual meets for both the junior and senior high boys and girls track teams.
Charlie himself was an all-around athlete in high school, playing football, basketball, and track & field. He became a dedicated runner, running over 25,000 miles in his lifetime. He had to switch to cycling because of his knees. He found success there as he won the Florida Senior Olympics!
Like all Panther fans, Charlie has been a fixture at Pana sporting events over the years. He has led a life devoted to the community and the sports programs. A 1996 newspaper article stated, “If any of the above successes could be condensed into one word, Charlie Downs would probably define TEAMWORK.”