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Honor, tradition inspire participants in Pat's Run

April 23, 2015

At Saturday’s Pat’s Run in Tempe, people from all walks of life will come together to honor and celebrate Pat Tillman’s legacy. But each brings his or her own motivation to the event.

For Tillman Scholar Chad Waltz, the 4.2-mile run is a place where he gets to be with 30,000 of his closest friends, family and Sun Devil fans alike.

“Really I run for a combination of things, but what really motivates me to run is for our brothers and sisters who aren’t here with us that can’t run,” Waltz said, pointing both to those who, like Tillman, gave their lives in service to their country and to those who are still serving abroad.

“I run for them – those that haven’t made it back yet and those that never will come back.”

The 4.2-mile run, which ends on the 42-yard line at Sun Devil Stadium (in honor of Tillman’s No. 42 ASU football jersey), raises money for the Tillman Military Scholars, a program designed to support educational opportunities for service members and military families.

Since being named a Tillman Scholar in the 2012-2013 school year, Waltz graduated from ASU with his master’s degree in social work in the College of Public Programs. He completed his thesis while deployed to Afghanistan in 2013.

“I’m very, very blessed and thankful for the ASU graduate staff because my teachers and professors really worked with me so that I could at least finish my thesis and submit all my degree requirements and graduate,” Waltz said.

After returning from Afghanistan in November 2013, Waltz found work at the VA as a social worker in the emergency room. There, Waltz said he got to see trauma in its raw form. He said it gave him experience in understanding mental health and mental illness and in getting people placed with the correct resource.

Last month, Waltz got a psychotherapy position at the West Valley Vet Center in Peoria, Arizona. At the center, they specialize in dealing with combat veterans and with those who experienced sexual assault, both situations fairly common in the military, according to Waltz.

With Saturday’s Pat’s Run, Waltz said it will be nice to see how the other Tillman Scholars are doing. For many, their military experience shapes their professional choices.

“For me to give back, it was working for veterans, and for so many other scholars … (they) want to be doctors, but it’s to help veterans or help veteran families so it’s a lot of community outreach,” he said.

A family tradition

Trish Thiele-Keating, an ASU alumnus and also a partner with the Pat Tillman Foundation through her work at the ASU Alumni Association, has participated in Pat’s Run since the first run 11 years ago.

Coming from an ASU family, Thiele-Keating grew up going to ASU football games. She remembers Tillman during his time at the university and later with the Arizona Cardinals.

Thiele-Keating, her husband and their two daughters will be participating in the run – it has been a tradition since Thiele-Keating and her then-fiance heard about it 11 years ago.

“It’s a given every year,” Thiele-Keating said. “Come April, we know that’s what we’re doing and we plan everything else around it. … It’s amazing how much it’s grown since that first year.”

Thiele-Keating and her husband walk the run, but she said being able to enjoy the run for a longer period of time is great. They get inspired by people running in full combat gear or by those who clearly have a physical challenge and are challenging themselves to finish.

“I think that this cause has touched people’s hearts to know that this event is not only there in the memory of Pat Tillman, but you are also supporting those men and women who have made a sacrifice for their country, and their families,” Thiele-Keating said.

Enjoying the crowd

For Efraim Ruthenberg, Saturday marks the second time he has done Pat’s Run since being named a Tillman Military Scholar for the 2013-2014 school year.

Since receiving that honor, Ruthenberg graduated from ASU with his MBA through the W. P. Carey School of Business. He now works for an asset manager in financial investment and lives in Scottsdale.

“I’m pretty involved with the Tillman Foundation because a lot of their scholars are around the country (and) I’m one of the few that live in the Phoenix area,” Ruthenberg said. “… I’m always eager to help out when I can.”

He said Pat’s Run is the biggest run he has ever done. He enjoys seeing the crowd, being in a lively atmosphere and of course getting to run out onto the field at Sun Devil Stadium.

Ruthenberg applied to be a Tillman Scholar because of the program’s prestige.

“I definitely don’t really think I’m that special compared to a lot of the resumes to the other scholars, but just to be named in that group was a big honor …” he said. “Just the opportunities that being a part of the program gives you. Certain network opportunities, meeting people, other veterans, people in business, being able to participate in some of the service and volunteer programs they have is a good time.”

Written by Samantha Pell, ASU News