Starbucks Runners Carry the Flag for Veterans

The first time Ryan Tonkinson ran in the Team Red, White and Blue Old Glory Relay, he found himself surprisingly winded despite putting in plenty of advance preparation. This year, he’s taking it slow and steady, but he’ll take just as much pride in reaching his goal.

Tonkinson, a Starbucks district manager in Northern California, is one of a number of company partners (employees) who’ll be participating in the 2016 Team Red, White and Blue Old Glory Relay. The relay, which was first conducted in 2014, will ultimately cover more than 4,000 miles with 62 teams working together to carry a single American flag from Washington state to Florida.

Beginning at sunrise September 11 – Patriots’ Day – at the Space Needle in Seattle, participants will transport the flag Olympic-torch-style past the nearby Starbucks Support Center (headquarters) on its way south along the West Coast to San Diego. The route then turns east, proceeding across the Southwest and Gulf Coast before reaching its destination – Tampa, Florida, home of Team Red, White and Blue ­– on November 11, Veterans Day.

The course will take runners, bikers and walkers by or near Starbucks Military Family Stores along the way, beginning at Lakewood, Washington, on the first day and Tampa at the end. Starbucks Military Family Store activities around the effort are planned for Oceanside, California, on September 30; Tucson, Arizona, October 6; and Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, November 3.

Howard and Sheri Schultz support veterans through the Schultz Family Foundation. The foundation is also a sponsor of Team Red, White and Blue as part of its national Onward Veterans Initiative, a portfolio of projects focused on ensuring veterans and their families are able to successfully transition back into civilian life after they leave the military.

A 15-year partner and chair of the Starbucks Northern California Armed Forces Network, Tonkinson was one of nearly 1,200 athletes who participated in 2015. Last year, $436,000 was generated through the relay for Team Red, White and Blue, a nonprofit that strives to enrich the lives of American veterans by connecting them with their communities through physical and social activity.

Although Tonkinson ran about 15 miles a week to prepare himself for last year’s event, the seven-year U.S. Army veteran found himself surprisingly “gassed” when he’d completed his leg.

“Ever since I got out of the military, I would run pretty regularly, depending on the time of year or work,” he said. “But I ran way faster than I normally do. I actually burned myself out running faster than my normal pace just because it was so motivating.”

Tonkinson’s leg last year was through the Solano County town of Fairfax. He’s not sure where he’ll be carrying Old Glory this year, but he intends to savor the time – at a walking pace.

“Having been given the opportunity to carry various unit flags when I was in the military, to actually be able to carry the American flag for whatever distance is a huge honor and a way to show my support of our country, the military and veterans,” Tonkinson said.

Did You Know?

Starbucks is creating opportunity for veterans as they transition from military service to civilian careers. Starbucks is committed to hiring at least 10,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2018.

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