Remembering Zoon

   (Photo courtesy of the Zachary Porter Foundation)
(Photo courtesy of the Zachary Porter Foundation)

One year ago, the Lake Bluff and Lake Forest communities tragically lost Zachary Porter who passed away on a trip to Alaska. The loss was unimaginable for anyone who knew Porter, an adventurous and kind-hearted young man who cared deeply for his friends and family. 

Since his passing, his family, friends, and former teammates continue to honor his legacy and remember the life of a young man who made an impact on so many. 

Zach considered growing up in Lake Bluff to be a privilege, and he made the most of every day he got to live in this wonderful community. He spent his childhood days running around the Lake Bluff Baseball fields, and exploring everything his little town had to offer. 

“Zach loved this village, and he loved Lake Bluff, and it made him what he is today,” said Todd Porter, Zach’s father. 

Zach also loved the lake, learning how to sail from the Lake Bluff sailing camp, and later becoming an instructor. 

“I remember watching him clammer through the park late to work on his way to sailing every single morning. Sometimes running down the bluff to the dismay of the Park District, and all involved,” said Sarah Porter, Zach’s sister.       

Photo courtesy of Wilson Irvin

Although often late, Zach made an impression on everyone involved in sailing, especially the campers. 

“Zach was everyone’s favorite instructor,” said Paige Wilson, a camper at Lake Bluff sailing camp. “He had a special connection with everyone, and he made everyone want to be there no matter the day. I remember every year he would say the same thing, that if you had no one to talk to, he would always be there to chat and to be your friend. Zach was the instructor that constantly brought positive energy, and he was truly a warm soul that everyone wanted to be around.”

Playing baseball was one of Zach’s many passions. As any player growing up in Lake Bluff, Porter played both house and travel league ball.

“Zoon showed more heart than pretty much everyone on the baseball field all the time, and growing up he had no idea how to channel it,” said Luke Davis, a friend of Zach’s. “Whether it was yelling at my dad or another coach, he was never afraid to express to everyone how much he loved the game.”

 Zach eventually took his passion for baseball to Lake Forest High School. 

“What I loved most about Zach was there wasn’t anything flashy about his game,” Head Coach of LFHS Varsity Baseball Team Mike Nilles said. “He didn’t wear all the eye black and arm sleeves.  You wouldn’t know he was the best player on the team just by looking at him.” 

 Zach’s undeniable love for baseball made him a valuable asset to the team. 

“Zoons presence on the diamond and the dugout was always comforting.” said Wilson Irvin, a friend of Zach’s. “I would always look forward to the days where he was pitching, as we would always have a chance to win. His charisma during the games never failed to make me smile. It was a joy to play baseball with Zach from the ages of eight to eighteen.”

In LFHS’s 2023 varsity baseball season, the team had their first playoff game shortly after Porter’s passing. After a close battle throughout seven innings against Wauconda, the Scouts went into extra innings. Being the home team of the neutral site, the Scouts had one final at bat, after tying the game 3-3, but quickly giving up a run at the top of the 8th. Due up were the Scouts 7, 8, and 9 hitters, who quickly obtained a run and a potential game winning situation for team captain Sheppard Graf, with the bases loaded and a tie game. Graf wore Porter’s signature #3, and also happened to be batting in the 3 spot. 

 “Putting the #3 on my back the first time was a feeling I have never had before,said Graf. “I knew while I was playing he was always with me and the team.” 

Photo courtesy of @chengflicks

With a 3-1 count, Graf hit a line drive past Wauconda’s first baseman, winning the game. 

During that playoff game and the rest of the playoffs, the Scouts won the Regional Championship against Antioch, then won again against Cary Grove to play for the Sectional Championship. The team said they could feel that Porter was always with them.  “I especially knew Zach was with us because there were 3s everywhere,” said Graf. “We only won 3 playoff games, only had 3 hits in the last game, and I made 3 errors in the last game.”

“It meant a lot to me knowing I could represent Zach on the baseball field and everything he did off the field,” said Graf. 

On top of baseball, Zach would spend time playing in the Lake Bluff Wiffle Ball Classic, an annual tradition, where all money donated and raised would go to a charity of the winners choosing. Porter and his friends on team “Orange Juice” had played for the previous eight years, winning multiple championships along the way. 

Photo courtesy of Brooke Davis


This year, Zach’s former teammates flew back into town from college to play in the classic, all displaying #3 on their jersey sleeves. Unfortunately, the Orange Juice did not win the championship. The Zoonies, (named after Zach) took home a championship in the women’s league. The tournament would raise $28,000, with $19,000 being donated to the Zachary Porter foundation.

The Zachary Porter foundation was founded by Zach’s family to honor and continue the mark he left on so many individuals. At its core, the foundation aims to provide enrichment activities such as music lessons, sports, field trips, and more to kids who would not otherwise have access to those opportunities. Recently, the Foundation has worked closely with Bluffers in Need, another foundation that provides aid to Middle School students that may need it. 

“This past year we provided funds for Bluffers in Need, which helped send thirteen eighth graders on their annual Washington D.C. trip,” said Todd Porter.

The foundation also worked with the mothers trust organization last year to send over fifty kids to summer camp. They are also currently funding a soccer league in North Chicago and Waukengan that has over 200 kids participating.

“We definitely plan to support them through each of their seasons this year and hopefully we can continue supporting them as they grow,” said Sarah Porter.

Photo courtesy of ZPF

 In the long run, the Foundation is hoping to establish an outdoor space that will offer a home to animals of all kinds, and children who ache to learn more about the natural world, just as Zach did. 

“We have a piece of land up in Wisconsin dedicated to Zach,” said Sarah Porter. “We hope to evolve how that can be utilized. It’s a beautiful piece of land adjacent to a national forest, so there’s a lot of opportunity for education or getting people out there just to remember and love Zach. There’s a lot we can do to honor him because there’s so much that he was a part of.”

Photo courtesy of ZPF

The Foundation is also working alongside other organizations to fund a music festival in Lake Bluff, Sunrise Rocks, on Sunday, May 26th. This is the 4th Annual Sunrise Rocks, but this year it will hold more importance to those who loved Zach. 

“This year Sunrise Rocks has taken on added significance, because it’s the first year that we’ve had a charity [The Zachary Porter Foundation] close to our hearts. And it’s going to be bigger and better than ever,” said Todd Porter. 

Beginning at 3, there will be five music performances, including special appearances from the Lake Bluff Middle School Choir. Sunrise Rocks will take place at Sunrise Park, and all are welcome. 

“I really do think it’s [Sunrise Rocks] an opportunity to thank the community and bring together all the people that loved him, and just a wonderful way to remember him. It means so much to us that so many people were out for his memorial, and are now going to be out this year for the festival. We can really turn his life into something positive,” said Sarah Porter. 

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