Local runner organizes half-marathon to honor fallen and their families

Scott Swanson

Rachel Kittson-MaQatish of Sweet Home wanted to help a grieving family, who included her own son-in-law, after the death of a young soldier from Boring who was killed just weeks before his wedding.

Cpl. Keaton Coffey was killed in action at age 22 in Afghanistan on May 24, 2012, a few weeks before he was scheduled to return home from his final deployment and six weeks before what would have been his wedding day.

Coffey was the only child of Grant and Inger Coffey, of Boring, and attended nearby Damascus Christian School from kindergarten to his senior year. He graduated in 2007 and briefly attended George Fox University shortly before joining the Marines.

MaQatish, whose own son, Jamie Steinbacher, is serving in the Air Force in Kuwait, said he felt a particular connection to the family because her son-in-law, Dylan Lawrence, is Keaton Coffey’s cousin. Lawrence is married to MaQatish’s daughter, Josalyn Lawrence.

MaQatish became interested in raising money for a scholarship fund in honor of Coffey.

“They were like brothers, and Grant and Inger Coffey, Keaton’s parents, have been so good to him and such an influence on his life,” she said. “When he lost Keaton, my daughter and I were at a loss for how to bring hope into such a sad situation.”

Keaton Coffey’s bride and mother were in the midst of preparing for his return and the wedding when they learned he was killed, she said.

“Going from such great joy to such deep sadness commands others to come alongside them and love them through it.

“I just can’t imagine the sadness. A mother wearing the dress she picked out for her son’s wedding to his funeral. Her only child. And Brittany Dygert, Keaton’s fiance. My oldest children are her age. It is hard to experience that much pain at such a young age. She is a beautiful young lady and a good friend of my daughter’s. My heart just goes out to her.”

So MaQatish, a local attorney who is a long-distance runner herself, decided to put on a half-marathon to raise money for veterans and to honor Coffey’s memory.

The run, called the Hero Half, will be the centerpiece of a three-race event held Saturday, May 25. MaQatish said the race will honor “several other heroes” who have been wounded or whose relatives were killed or wounded in combat – Scot Noss, Marcie Sullens and Mikki Hagle. She asks that anyone who knows of a military family that would like to be included in honoring a loved one should have them e-mail organizers and participate.

The event, which includes the 13.1-mile half-marathon, which starts and finishes at Community Chapel on Ames Creek Drive, along with an 8-kilometer (just under five miles) run/walk and a 1.3-mile trail run.

Sponsored by Community Chapel, The Morley Thomas Law Firm, and KRKT, along with contributions from many others, proceeds will be split evenly between the Keaton Coffey Scholarship, The Wounded Warrior Project and Operation Home Front, all programs that assit veterans or active-duty service people.

The half-marathon will start and finish on the Community Chapel grounds and will be run largely on local roads. Runners will cross Weddle Bridge and pass through Sankey Park, then will wind through neighborhoods until they reach the middle leg of South Hills Trail behind Oak Heights School, which they will take to Old Holley Road. Turning right on Old Holley, they will climb the hill, splitting away from the 8K course, and will run to Holley Church where they will turn around, heading back to Sweet Home and will turn right, through the Canyon Creek development and onto the east end of South Hills Trail and back to Community Chapel.

The half-marathon and the 8k are professionally chip-timed races by Rogue-Multi Sports.

Awards will go to the largest team and individual awards to the top overall male and female in the half and 8k, as well as three deep in age groups 14 & under, 15-24, 25-39, 40-59 and 60 and over for half and 8k.

The 8K course is flat, running through town, including and the 1.3-mile trail run will be on the chapel grounds, which include trails well-known to local runners.

Maqatish said residents need to be aware that runners will be coming out of the Chapel grounds onto Ames Creek shortly after 8 a.m.

“If you want to enjoy the event and can’t make it by 7:30, please come after 8:30,” she said. “The 1.3 trail run will be going on intermittently throughout the event. If you live along the course there should be a minor inconvenience and it would be appreciated if your dogs were kenneled, and that you did not park alongside the road. We don’t anticipate any road closures and runners will be running against traffic for their safety. There will be signs and persons warning drivers of runners on the road.

“Please drive carefully and watch out for runners along the course starting at 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.”

She said people with questions should e-mail [email protected].

In addition to the races, the start/finish line at the church grounds will feature a Family Fun Memorial Celebration that will include a silent auction, T-shirts for sale, an Umpqua Ice Cream Truck, free military buzz cuts, face painting, a fire truck, an Oregon National Guard Humvee, a bounce house, soldier memorials, a Wounded Warrior Project booth, Army dog tags and various armed services representatives.

To sign up for the race or to learn more, visit http://www.facebook.com/HeroHalf or herohalf.org.