6th Annual TAPS Celebrity Classic

Author: Christine Burtt

TAPS is grateful for the time and energy that the Cottrells and their team of volunteers put forth each year for the annual TAPS Celebrity Classic. We are humbled by their dedication and thankful for their support.   

gatlin brothers

The 6th Annual TAPS Celebrity Classic in Colorado, hosted by Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, exceeded expectations both in terms of the fun factor and by the $500,000 raised for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. In its six years, the event has raised a more than $1.8 million for TAPS. 

The sold-out event, held June 24 and 25, included a Friday night kick-off dinner with the Songwriter's & New Artists Show and a tournament at The Golf Club at Bear Dance on Saturday followed by a dinner and concert. The Gatlin Brothers—Larry, Steve, and Rudy—headlined the celebrity-studded activities.

Michael Martin Murphey, award winning country western singer and songwriter, was a surprise guest at the Friday night show held at the Red Lion Hotel Southeast for 350 guests. With two standing ovations, the audience greatly enjoyed his unannounced performance. Additionally, Nashville’s hottest songwriter, Brett Jones, treated the audience to many of his chart-topping tunes and was joined by local beer magnate Pete Coors playing the spoons. Grammy-nominated songwriter Leslie Satcher, recording artist Jeff Dayton and newcomer Charla Corn also performed.

Eddie Ainsworth, executive director of the Colorado PGA, ran the Five Player Shamble (four players and a celebrity). Of the 24 teams, the First Flight winners were the Tri-West sponsored team of Steve Alcock, Greg Dillon, Scott Celley, Bob Feehs and Joe Pansini. Pansini is a TAPS survivor whose son, a U.S. Marine, died in 2010. Second Flight winners were the team sponsored by American Furniture Warehouse, and Third Flight winners were the team sponsored by Greiner Electric.

A separate military competition pitted teams from Air Force, Army, Marine, and Navy. First Place winners were the Air Force team, sponsored by Pete and Marilyn Coors. Team members included Colonel Chance Saltzman, Lieutenant Colonel Kelly Cannapaux, Major Mike Shirley, and Chief Master Sergeant Leon Palmer.

Steve Groves again gifted the use of his spectacular Ranch at Cherry Creek for the Saturday night concert. It was hosted by the Gatlin Brothers, with special appearances by local musical legends Bo Cottrell, Eddie Johnson, and Steve Phelps known collectively as The Lawmen. Funnyman Gary Mule Deer kept the audience laughing and wanting more. 

Once again, the Coors Cowboy Club Chuckwagon Crew drove from Amarillo, Texas, donating their time and a delicious pit-roasted prime rib dinner for over 600 guests, with Pete Coors helping to serve the meal. For some, the Cowboys’ reliably delicious dinner is as much a draw as the entertainment.

coors cowboy club

The Cottrells attribute the high net contribution to many generous donors such as AIMCO; Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP; Tri-West HealthCare Alliance; American Furniture Warehouse; Gordon and Kaja Burr; Pete and Marilyn Coors; Randall Taylor and Taylor Oil Properties; Terry Ganey and Prolific Petroleum, LLC; John and Randee Conley; Bud and Kaye Isaacs; Bill and Rita Bass Coors; Lanny Martin and other friends of TAPS.

More than 60 local volunteers staff the events to keep the two-day program running like a well-oiled machine. Andrea Castro, Amanda Mountjoy, Jewel Hargrave, Joan Beninati, Jennifer Lee, Al Duran, Micah Marmaro and Rob O’Regan served as committee chairs in charge of merchandise sales, celebrity gift bags, logistics, registration, print collateral, hospitality, transportation, decorations and website marketing. Christine Burtt serves as media director for the TAPS Celebrity Classic. Dave Gill gifted professional photography for the several events.

Tom Tarver helped recruit celebrities, golfers, and sponsors. Marty Soudani and WizBang! Solutions gifted production and printing of the event programs. The Red Lion Hotel Southeast donated celebrity suites plus additional amenities. Colorado Party Rentals donated all the Saturday night tables, chairs and linens.

Pat and John Frank directed all aspects of the silent auction, and Michelle Yi organized the live auction. Jake Jabs called the live auction, which asking donors to sponsor specific items for TAPS such as backpacks and other Good Grief Camp supplies or funding for families to attend the National TAPS Suicide Survivor Retreat to be held at Fort Carson this October. 

Don Scott of Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP won the bid to sponsor four wounded warriors to attend a Denver Broncos game with 50-yard line seats, field passes, and parking passes.   

classic sponsors

Other performers and local notables who donated their time and talent to the TAPS Celebrity Classic included comedian Ralph Achilles; former NFL running back Donny Anderson; actor John Ashton; radio host Peter Boyles, actor Tom Bower; radio host Michael Brown; Congressman Mike Coffman; entertainers Tony David and Pam Hughes; US Air Force Academy Superintendent Lieutenant General Michael Gould; quarterback Brian Griese; basketball star and coach Bill Hanzlik; author and physician Colonel Dave Hnida, MD; sportscaster Cory Lopez; ace fighter pilot Brigadier General Steve Ritchie, Retired; radio talk host Mike Rosen; NFL pro Mark Schlereth; radio host Craig Silverman; actor Bill Smitrovich; Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton; former Bronco Jerry Sturm; State Representative Nancy Todd; radio news anchor Steffan Tubbs; sports anchor Natalie Vickers; film producer Michael Watkins; and NBA coach Brian Winters.

The TAPS Celebrity Classic continued to bring in donations after the event. Radio host Mike Rosen read Klinger, A Story of Honor and Hope, written by TAPS survivor Betsy Beard, during his KOA Radio Show. The children’s story is about a young horse that wanted to be a race horse but learned the honor of becoming one of the caisson horses performing military honors for fallen heroes buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The broadcast inspired more than 125 listeners to make a contribution to TAPS and receive a gift of the book.