Arizona Legion Riders Chapter 117 continues to support the Pat Tillman Foundation

In 2013, Arizona Legionnaire Lars Peterson was watching what had become an annual event in Tempe: Pat’s Run, a 4.2-mile run/walk that raises money for Tillman Scholars of the Pat Tillman Foundation. That’s when Peterson got involved, albeit almost mocking himself.

“I was sitting there watching him as all these riders went by,” said Peterson, assistant director of his American Legion Riders chapter and former post commander at Pat Tillman Post 117 in Phoenix. “And I’m like, ‘Here we are, a bunch of (Legion Riders). We are fat, stupid and lazy. We can’t do that. So I thought, ‘They have Pat’s Run. Why can’t we do Pat’s Ride?

While creating a relationship with the Tillman Foundation in 2013 and 2014, Peterson and the Riders of Chapter 117 staged what became known as Tillman’s Ride. Two local entities that assist military personnel and first responders were the beneficiaries of the race proceeds.

And in 2015, when the Tillman Foundation joined us, the race benefited Tillman Scholars, which fund college expenses for military personnel, veterans, and spouses with high potential for impact and leadership abilities. To date, the ride has raised nearly $100,000 for the scholarship program.

The 2013 race brought over 400 motorcycles, a number that would top 600 the following year and continue to grow. The most recent ride took place on April 2 after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic and attracted more than 400 motorcycles. Peterson said the amount raised this year is still being tallied; he expects to have raised between $11,000 and $12,000.

“We had the two years of COVID when we couldn’t do it, so our attendance went down a bit (this year),” Peterson said. “The last ride we did (before the pandemic) we raised about $14,000.”

This year’s race got a big boost from Sons of The American Legion Squadron 117 member Mark Gus Scott. Drummer for the rock band Trixter in the 1990s, Scott helped the band achieve top 50 airplay hits and No. 1 videos on MTV. He has now turned his sights to entrepreneurship, earlier this year launching American Premium Vodka, which sponsored the 2022 Tillman’s Ride.

Peterson said he would start planning the 2023 route in November, lining up sponsors and working out the route and stops. But Tillman’s Ride is just one of many fundraising efforts Chapter 117 commits to each year.

“We do many hikes throughout the year. One ride can pay to this charity, and another can pay to this charity,” Peterson said. “We try to get them to more military charities. And there are rides geared toward veterans, like a suicide awareness ride we run for veterans and their families.

“We do a lot of different functions for a lot of different causes. It’s just one of them. But we never thought this one would get this big. The first year we did it, I was really sweating in the morning…because I didn’t see any bikes coming to the starting point. I was like, ‘This is going to be a failure.’ I was really disgusted. But then all those bikes started rolling. It was an incredible thing. At the end of the day…it was like, ‘Wow, that really worked out.’ »

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