A sea of people donning No. 42, many hoisting the Stars and Stripes high above their heads and relishing in the camaraderie, assembled April 25 outside Sun Devil Stadium.
They were brimming with excitement, though not from an Arizona State victory – at least not in the traditional sense. The crowd was there to champion a cause and celebrate a legend.
Children dozed in strollers or danced to music while adults adjusted their armbands, stretched their muscles and knotted their shoes while awaiting the start of a 4.2-mile run in memory of a man and his story that impacted so many.
The 11th annual Pat’s Run showcased amateur runners and walkers of all ages, from Arizona and across the country, as well as U-Haul Team Members who paid tribute to Pat Tillman.
“This was my fourth year doing the run and third year doing it with my family,” Scott Bremer of U-Haul building maintenance/canopy said. “As a diehard ASU fan and Cardinal fan, I closely watched and followed the career of Pat Tillman. I loved his work ethic and dedication he had … and then to turn down millions from the NFL to serve our country is truly an inspiration!”
Tillman, a former Sun Devil whose athletic ability, training and passion earned him a position as an Arizona Cardinal starting safety, put aside his NFL career to enlist in the U.S. Army after the attacks of 9/11.
Tillman served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan before the tragic events of April 22, 2004 in Afghanistan took his life. Shortly after Tillman’s passing, his family started the Pat Tillman Foundation, which provides scholarships to military veterans and their spouses. The Foundation invests in students who embody the principles that Tillman displayed.
Over the years, the Pat Tillman Foundation has joined with companies to raise funds for veteran students who dedicate themselves to the service of others. U-Haul is one of those companies.
As a sponsor of Pat’s Run since 2010, U-Haul has aligned itself with the Pat Tillman Foundation to give back to those who serve our country. U-Haul and its Team Members assist Pat’s Run by providing trucks, storage and boxes in preparation for the event. U-Haul also contributes to the Pat Tillman Foundation by providing necessary in-kind resources for Tillman Scholars to move.
By participating in events such as Pat’s Run, U-Haul Team Members see the impact their efforts have on the community and charitable organizations such as Maggie’s Place, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance and former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner’s First Things First Foundation.
“We walked for many reasons,” said Chris Marchese, a U-Haul rate analyst who participated alongside his sister, Lorin. “We have multiple family members and friends in the military, so this is one way we choose to honor them.
“This Pat’s Run was my sister’s first, but will not be her last. Even before we had finished, we were already figuring out next year. We plan to bring my wife and possibly my oldest child along. A new annual family tradition has begun.”
With 30,000 in attendance, Pat’s Run continues to attract more people each year who link their participation with their appreciation for Tillman’s service and career.
“Pat’s Run embodies so many great things, which make it so successful and keeps me coming back,” Velaski said. “The camaraderie that exists between everyone running, jogging and walking is just inconceivable. I’ve seen soldiers walking in uniform as runners cut through people to come over to shake their hands and thank them for their service.
“I also run to be apart of something bigger than myself and to do it with many great friends who feel the same way I do.”
What memories do you have of Pat Tillman or of a Pat’s run? Share with us in the comments