They met in 2007 at a kickoff for the Sun Foundation’s Clean Water Celebration. It was her first Clean Water Celebration as an Illinois American Water employee, and he was manning a booth for his chiropractic office. “We didn’t see each other again for several months, but when we did we both recalled that first meeting,” explains Karen, who married Dr. Brad Cotton the following summer. “We thank the Sun Foundation for bringing us together!”
Born and raised in Peoria, Brad graduated from Dunlap High School and Illinois Central College before heading to Palmer College of Chiropractic, where he graduated in 2001. At Peoria Chiropractic, his top priority is to help patients improve body function while decreasing pain and eliminating the need for medications and surgery. Nationally recognized by the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine for his work on chiropractic care for treatment of Bell’s palsy, he sits on the Sun Foundation Board of Directors.
Karen Cotton serves as external affairs manager at Illinois American Water, leading strategic communication and community relations across 13 service districts. A Bradley University graduate, she has been recognized with awards ranging from 40 Leaders Under Forty to the Unsung Shero Award presented by It Takes a Village and the Living to Serve Foundation. A 2019 inductee into the African American Hall of Fame Museum in Peoria, she volunteers with the Clean Water Celebration navigating committee, the Peoria County Sheriff’s Citizen Advisory Board, and numerous animal-related organizations.
- Words to live by: Every day is the best day ever, because it is the only day that matters.
- Favorite vacation spot outside U.S.: Newfoundland, Canada. We renewed our vows there in 2018 for our 10-year anniversary. To commemorate it, we launched a message in a bottle into the ocean (with permission from the Canadian Coast Guard). It was found almost a year later by a lovely couple in Devon, U.K. We plan to visit there in 2022.
- Last book read: White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. We are almost done reading it and it’s really good.
- Favorite treat: Mexican ice cream from Palarte or Las Delicias, with a side of flavored popcorn from Young’s Popcorn Heaven.
- What’s your favorite way to unwind after a long day? Takeout from a local restaurant, Blanchard Family Wines, and vintage vinyl spinning.
- Favorite aspect of central Illinois: The people. We are blessed to live in a community where people care about each other, the arts, the environment and giving back.
- Favorite splurge: Taking an adventure together. We’ve had the opportunity to stay in unique places like a working lighthouse, treehouse, Airstream camper, etc.
- Our last purchase: We recently purchased fly fishing rods. We are excited to use our new gear across the country and at the newest central Illinois gem, Sankoty Lakes Resort and Retreat.
- What is the one word friends use to describe you? Love. They can see the love we have for each other, our friends, and the community.
- What app can’t you live without? CALM. The meditations and sleep stories are very helpful. A good night’s sleep and a calm heart go a long way! PM