Wow!  Another Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk weekend is in the books! And, what a great weekend it was. Every participant has their own unique experience, but we thought it would be fun to share the experiences that the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s staff had while planning and carrying out the 2015 event.

Leading up to the weekend, the staff puts in countless hours – whether it is coming in extra early in the morning, staying late into the night, or working on the weekends. Planning the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk is HARD WORK. However, the tremendous end result makes the effort all the more worth it! As hard as the staff works, it is a time when our staff really gets to bond with one another – through the late nights and weekend hours, we enjoy working together as a team. We definitely know the common goal we are working towards and are pleased to work with one another to achieve something we all love.

When the weekend finally arrives, and the excitement is building, things go to a whole new level when we start seeing our Building for America’s Bravest smart home recipients and their families arrive in New York for the weekend! Many of the service members and their families arrive on Friday or Saturday. Each family is greeted in the hotel lobby by members of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation staff. Each is welcomed with a gift bag filled with treats for their hotel rooms. The numerous families and our staff spend considerable time together catching up throughout the weekend.

We also have numerous supporters from out of town join us for the weekend, many who have been with the Foundation since the beginning. Having them in town reminds us just how Stephen’s story and the mission of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation has spread – from Ohio, to Georgia, to Florida, to Mississippi, and even all the way across the pond to Great Britain!! We just love being surrounded by so many great people who make the trip to New York for the weekend. We appreciate their continued commitment!

This year, the Foundation held a VIP Reception for our donors, supporters, and honored guests at ONE World Observatory located on the 102nd Floor of One World Trade. What a beautiful night it was! From the spectacular view, to the food, to the entertainment, to the company – we had an amazing evening celebrating the Foundation’s accomplishments throughout the year, and honoring those who help make it all possible. It is always fun to dress up and attend an event like this – it was a truly special evening!

Of course, the biggest highlight of the weekend always comes on Sunday; the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk! Each member of the staff experiences this day a little differently as we all have different roles to carry out throughout the day. To get the overall picture of what the day is like from all angles of the Run & Walk, here are some quotes from the staff about their experiences.

Our Military Liaison, Marie DeLeon, provides insight as to what it is like to participate in the Run & Walk beside our injured service members and their families:

“It is my privilege every year to experience the Run & Walk with service members who, despite their catastrophic injuries, challenge themselves to complete the 5K with the rest of us.  This year, some walked on prosthetics legs, others rolled in wheelchairs, and those able to walk on their own legs were missing arms, but every one of them was happy, strong, and confident as they followed in Stephen’s footsteps with their families.  We had 15 children in our group, from young infants to older teenagers.  These children are growing up understanding the importance of patriotism, caring for others, and perseverance, with real heroes as their role models.  Our event inspires people, renews friendships, and creates a camaraderie not only among the service members, but between their families, our volunteers, and our staff.  I can’t wait for them to come back next year, because they are part of our Tunnel to Towers family, and I miss them when they aren’t around!”

In regards to working directly with hundreds of our volunteers, Jeanna DellaRagione, our Volunteer Coordinator, describes her experience like this:

Our volunteers are so dedicated to our Foundation! Each one of them arrives with a smile and ready to help in any way they can. Some travel long hours and some stay with us for multiple days. No matter what, we can always count on them. While we could never thank them enough for all they do, they are the ones who then send us beautiful thank you notes for letting them be a part the Foundation and the day.”

The weekend always ends with quality time as a staff with our Building for America’s Bravest program participants and our out-of-town friends. It’s a great way to unwind after the weekend and reflect together as a group. By this time, the staff has the pressure and stress of the weekend off its shoulders and we can relax. There are always plenty of laughs to be had when we all get together to talk about the weekend – we never forget how lucky we are to be part of the Tunnel to Towers family.

Finally, it is time to say goodbye to the weekend…..until next year! The staff says goodbye to our friends, and the service members and their families the same way we greeted them just days before. This time there is a little sadness and a few tears as we are disappointed that the weekend is over and that everyone has to return home. However, we are so grateful for the wonderful memories made – memories we won’t ever forget!

There is a quote that really sums things up, “surround yourself with people on the same mission as you.” We cannot think of a better way to describe how the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s staff feels about working together as a team on the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk weekend. We are blessed to be part of this amazing Foundation and to work for a common goal that ensures that as Americans we Never Forget the sacrifices made on September 11, 2001. Special thanks to all of you who came out for the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk weekend in 2015 – you make the effort all worth it!! See you next year!

“Let Us Do Good”

Photo Credit: Nicole DeLeon