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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Alpha Coffee, community fundraise for the Tillman Foundation at honor run

Jun 29, 2023 02:43PM ● By Jolene Croasmun

Runners, walkers and four Tillman scholar recipients before the Tillman Honor Run in Cottonwood Heights. Recipients holding the sign from left to right are David Parkinson, Emily Desmeules, Katie Newton and Kent Davis. (Jolene Croasmun/City Journals)

The Tillman Honor Run took place in Cottonwood Heights the last weekend of April. This was a family-friendly 4.2-mile run, walk or ruck that is held annually to raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation.

The morning began at Alpha Coffee, 7260 Racquet Club Drive, with a pipe band playing traditional Scottish bagpipe music as a moving tribute to honor the late Pat Tillman and the veterans, servicemen and women attending the event.

Pat David Tillman Jr. had played college football and graduated from ASU. Tillman then was drafted by the NFL. He played for the Arizona Cardinals and after 911 he made a choice to leave a lucrative football career and enlisted in the Army. Tillman was deployed to Afghanistan and died in 2004 by what eventually was ruled as coming from friendly fire.

His wife Marie Tillman wanted to find a way to honor Pat and his drive and determination to be the best at everything he did. Marie established the Pat Tillman Foundation which inspires others to create positive change through leadership programs, scholarships for veterans and active service members and their families. 

“Alpha Coffee in conjunction with ASU Alumni started hosting this event five years ago. My wife Lori and I did Pat’s run about 10 years ago. We talked to a number of Tillman scholars and it really motivated us to further the remembrance of Pat and his service by supporting a great nonprofit,” Carl Churchill said. Churchill and his wife Lori are the founders of Alpha Coffee.

“I started as a 17-year-old private and retired as a lieutenant colonel,” Churchill said about his 21 years of military service.

“The Tillman Honor Run has been amazing, and I see people out here who I remember coming that first year and even in the snow last year. Our goal is to really try to grow this event,” Churchill said.

There were four recipients of the Tillman Scholarship present at the run and each took a moment to express their gratitude. They talked about their service and what they were able to accomplish from this scholarship.

“I’m a 2016 Tillman scholar. I served in the Air Force for nine years. I got my master’s in Forestry Project Management at the University of Oregon and currently live near Logan,” David Parkinson said.

Parkinson addressed the crowd and added, “I am grateful for your support and coming out here and getting to meet other Tillman scholars and hear their stories, it’s a humbling experience and inspiring.”

“I’m Emily Desmeules, a 2022 Tillman scholar. It’s really the community that makes the Tillman Foundation so special, and I appreciate you all being here.”

“I’m a military spouse and currently work as a nurse practitioner in pediatric oncology in Salt Lake City and equally important is that I am a Sun Devil and got my undergraduate degree from ASU,” Katie Newton said to the crowd. Newton was a 2016 Tillman scholar.

The last Tillman scholar to speak was Kent Davis. “I was born and raised in Arizona, but I was a Wildcat, but now I donate every year to help the Scum Devils.” Davis, a 2012 Tillman scholar, got his undergraduate degree at the University of Arizona and hinted at the rivalry between the Arizona schools with the nickname.

“When I was born, my mother became a Quaker and if you are a Quaker, you cannot be drafted.” Davis was a freshman in college when 911 happened. “The summer between my junior and senior year is when Pat Tillman was killed, and I decided to join the military.”

“I am an attorney and the scholarship I got allowed me to clerk for a federal judge,” Davis said. Davis also thanked Churchill for putting this event together every year.

“It was started by ASU alumni, to honor the legacy and memory of Pat Tillman, a former NFL player and Army Ranger that lost his life serving our country,” said Erick Diaz from the ASU alumni.

“The ASU alumni have been doing this for 12 years and we have been getting about two or three runners every year. But five years ago, this one man, Carl, who owns Alpha Coffee told us that next year he wanted to make this race the best and he has made it really something amazing,” Diaz said.

There were 80 people who signed up for the run and the event this year raised $5,000.

There are several Tillman Honor Runs that take place in Utah and in several cities across the country with the largest in Tempe, Arizona.

The color guard came out and performed a military flag routine in front of Alpha Coffee while the national anthem was played before the run.

“All right runners, set, go!” They were off as the bagpipes and drums continued to play. λ