Step Up for Scholars 2022: Bernard Toney, Jr.

Step Up for Scholars | 08/02/2022

Welcome to Step Up for Scholars, the second event in the 2022 Pat’s Run Challenge Series! We’re celebrating all 14 classes of Tillman Scholars over the next 14 days. Each day, we’ll share a story from one of our scholars to inspire you to push a little harder tomorrow in your step challenge. Today, we bring you Bernard Toney, Jr., a 2022 Tillman Scholar on how he turned his personal pain into fuel for change. Here’s Bernard:

My name is Bernard Toney. I’m a 2022 Tillman Scholar. I want to give you a little bit about myself so you understand how some of the challenges that i had in my life can apply to you. In 1999, at the age of 17, I was a victim of a drive-by shooting, in which my best friend Ivan Gray died in my arms. That experience led me and propelled me into medicine for the rest of my military career. 

Just five years later in 2004, Pat Tillman died in Afghanistan in the southern part of Afghanistan. I deployed to the same place that he died just four months later in August of 2004. Fast forward to 2018 and I ended up serving at the White House Medical Unit and served under two presidents.

I did not come from a good starting point in my life and statistically all the challenges were mounted against me. There’s a great quote that I live my life by and I hope that you can apply to yourself. Arthur Ashe, the famous tennis player, he said start where you are, use what you have and do what you can. And if you apply that simple concept to your life, the places that you end up are endless.

The possibilities are endless — thank you Bernard for sharing your story and your experience!

Want to join the challenge? It’s not too late! Register by Aug. 14 at and you’ll get a commemorative t-shirt and hat.