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SWEET HOME — The sixth annual Hero Half Marathon, to be held May 26, has special meaning for event director Marci Sullens, a Sweet Home schoolteacher.

Sullens lost her brother, Lance Cpl. Dale Peterson, in Iraq in 2007.

The 8K event will start at 10 a.m. at Community Chapel, 42250 Ames Creek Road. A 1.3-mile fun trail run-walk will begin shortly after the 8K.

To register, visit: or find Hero Half on Facebook. Participants may also sign up the day of the event at the Community Chapel.

“Young and old, runners, walkers and spectators are welcome,” said Rachel Kittson-MaQatish, who helped found the event along with her daughter Josalyn Lawrence in honor of their friend Cpl. Keaton Coffey, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012.

“Keaton was a Marine Corps dog handler and had only weeks to go before he was scheduled to come home,” Kittson-MaQatish said. “He was also planning to be married.”

Not knowing how to ease his family’s pain, the race founders initiated the Hero Half Marathon Memorial Family Celebration in Keaton’s honor.

In addition to the half marathon and run-walk, there will be other family activities including a children’s area; veterans, military and memorial booths; music and food.

“While one might think this would be a somber event, it’s actually filled with smiles,” Kittson-MaQatish said. “It is where a sister tells her children about the uncle they can barely remember; where a father rides in on a motorcycle adorned with a portrait of a brave son who never came home; where one mother brings comfort to another, and where a white-haired veteran cheers on a young veteran in full rucksack gear as he crosses the finish line. It is where you feel America being celebrated and where children are taught the meaning of Memorial Day.”

Over the last five years, the event has raised more than $61,000 and proceeds have benefited the Vietnam Veterans Chapter 585 and a scholarship honoring a military hero. For four years funds went to the Keaton Coffee Memorial Scholarship. The Sweet Home Alumni Foundation is working with the Hero Half-Marathon to establish an endowed scholarship to honor Lance Cpl. Peterson.

Title sponsors for the sixth annual Hero Half Marathon are: Santiam Spray Service, T2, Samaritan Health Services, Weyerhaeuser, Morley Thomas Law and Community Chapel.

An auction associated with the event will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Boulder Falls Events Center in Lebanon. It will be conducted by Tribute to Honor, a nonprofit organization that supports veterans, responders and their families. The organization has thus far given away seven dogs to veterans in need as part of the Keaton Coffey Project K9s for Vets.

K-9s and their dog handlers will be present.

Keaton Coffey’s father, Grant Coffey, a retired Portland Fire battalion chief, stepped into the leadership of Tribute to Honor. 

Last year the organization gave the Lebanon Police Department a shepherd puppy named Lexi Honor. Officer Keith Stein was selected as Lebanon’s K-9 officer. Jeff Keller, whose son Pfc. Andrew Keller, 22, was killed Aug. 15, 2012, while serving in the Army in Afghanistan, cared for Lexi Honor prior to her entering the Lebanon police force.

Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.