VOLUNTEERS IMPACTING THE FOUNDATION
Greg Charles, a long-time supporter of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, has raised funds for both the Tower Climb at One World Observatory and the annual New York City T2T Run & Walk. He has participated in and led a fundraising team for the latter event for a decade.
While he has supported other organizations, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation is his charity of choice.
Greg uses multiple methods of securing donations, including social media, but finds he gets the greatest results through reaching out to his personal and professional contacts via email. He advises anyone looking to fundraise to utilize as many outlets as possible, to have a compelling message, and to make sure to convey the importance of the cause.
In 2014, Greg raised funds in honor of Joseph Anthony Lenihan, a fellow West Hartford, Connecticut native and graduate of William H. Hall High School, the same high school Greg attended. Lenihan, who was an executive vice president and a member of the Board of Directors at Keefe, Bruyette and Woods, lost his life at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Like many of those who choose to fundraise to support the Tunnel to Towers Foundation through the annual New York City T2T Run & Walk, Jackie Pellek’s team started with humble beginnings. Her husband, a firefighter, saw television coverage of the event, did a little research, and decided that it was a cause worth supporting. Jackie, who also lends time and talent to the Sussex County Women’s Forum, and educational and local fire department causes, had a team of 10 back in 2014, saw it grow to 58 in 2016, and could have 100 participants in 2017!
As is often the case, after participating in the T2T Run & Walk for the first time, the members of her team have become hooked and forever connected to the Foundation’s mission. Her diverse team includes firefighters from a multitude of places, including FDNY members, a 9/11 survivor who made it out of the South Tower, and even a gentleman who helped build the Twin Towers at the original World Trade Center complex.
The team’s firm belief in the Foundation’s cause has made things a little easier in terms of securing donations and attracting new team members. Jackie and her team utilize solicitation letters, social media, and a video of coverage they received on the YES Network from the 2016 event. Of course, word of mouth is a successful tool. “Don’t be afraid to ask people to join or donate,” Pellek said. “You’ll be surprised at the positive response you get. Also, be creative with your fundraising!”
After many years of watching coverage of the Tunnel to Towers NYC 5K Run & Walk on his television, John Quinn decided to participate in the event in 2010. Like most others, he hasn’t looked back. The magnitude of the annual run has led Quinn to raise funds for the Foundation and its programs. He believes that actively participating in the event and being associated with the T2T Foundation has changed his life.
Every year, Quinn runs in memory of his dear friend Joyce Carpeneto, who was working for General Telecom on the 83rd floor of the North Tower on September 11, 2001. He and Carpeneto worked together for years at Tower Records in Greenwich Village. He runs with an FDNY shirt for the firefighters, and a beautiful picture of Joyce near his heart.
“My favorite part of the run is coming out of the tunnel and seeing 343 firefighters holding pictures of colleagues they lost on 9/11,” Quinn said. “My father is a retired FDNY officer, and one of his colleagues is always there holding a picture of his son who gave his life that fateful day. I always look for him.”
Word of mouth and social media have been among the successful techniques used by Quinn to secure support for him friends and family members. In early September, he begins posting on Facebook about the fact that he will be once again retracing Stephen Siller’s footsteps. He highly recommends the use of social media platforms to raise funds.
“I always thought that a 5K run in memory of the firefighters and all the other 9/11 victims was a wonderful thing, and I wanted to be a part of it,” Quinn said. “I enjoy seeing all those wonderful people along the course who are rooting us on. It gives me a second wind to make it to the finish line. It has been one of the great experiences of my life. I’ll keep doing it every September as long as my legs hold out!
As she has done every year since 2012, Laurie Rudnick pulled up her striped socks and put on her Team Vigiano t-shirt, paired with her red, white, and blue tutu. But while the outfit was the same, this year, everything else would be different.
Laurie would typically be preparing for the annual Tunnel to Towers 5k Run & Walk NYC, which takes runners through the then Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to Ground Zero to retrace FDNY Firefighter Stephen Siller’s final steps on 9/11. Each year, her participation honors her cousins, FDNY firefighter John Vigiano II and NYPD detective Joseph Vigiano, who also gave their lives that day. The event typically draws more than 30,000 participants, but was cancelled this year due to citywide COVID-19 restrictions. Participants, like Laurie, were instead encouraged to take part in the Foundation’s newly launched Never Forget Virtual Challenge to honor the 9/11 fallen. And that’s exactly what she did.
In the face of a global pandemic, Laurie was determined to safely get her family and friends together to keep the tradition alive. “Even if we walked around the block 20 times, I vowed that we will do every year, and that we would never forget,” Laurie said.
With sunny and warm weather in the forecast, Laurie gathered her sister, parents, and friends in Eisenhower Park on Long Island and a teammate mapped out their own 5K route.
One thing that was never in question was wearing her annual race outfit, red white and blue regalia from her head to her feet. “When I wear this in the race, it’s expected. At Eisenhower Park on a random Saturday, I was quite the spectacle,”Laurie said.
The members of Team Vigiano weren’t the only ones in the park that morning, there was also a platoon of Marines. “I said look, the Marines are here! It feels like the real run. As we made our way back I heard someone yell my name, and it happened to be my cousin Joe. He was with his platoon doing drills that day,” said Laurie.
Joe, who had run with the team in 2019, recognized his cousin’s outfit and called out to her, making the event even more of a family affair. The signature outfit also helped Laurie share her story with strangers in the park who asked her questions. One person even took a picture. “There is a photo of me with a stranger out there somewhere,” Laurie laughed.
For Laurie, these random encounters are a chance to tell stories about her cousins and the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which is helping Gold Star and fallen first responder families and catastrophically injured veterans across the country.
“They have been gone for 19 years. I have a million stories, but that’s all I have left. It’s good to use our cousins’ names and their stories to do good for the people that are still here.”
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation would like to thank Laurie, her family and friends for keeping the promise America made 19 years ago, to Never Forget. You can also help to keep that promise and do good by donating to Tunnel to Towers at t2t.org.
When he heard the story of Stephen Siller’s dramatic run from the foot of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, Mike Pelliccio, a member of the Bayonne Fire Department, knew that he would participate in the annual NYC Tunnel to Towers Run & Walk each and every year.
Pelliccio was prompted to do more than participate after he viewed the videos of the catastrophically injured service members on our website, and saw how the smart homes they receive change their lives. Convinced that raising funds to support the Foundation would be a good way to get his community and local businesses involved, Pelliccio starting by reaching out to family and friends, the police and fire department unions in Bayonne, and by using social media to get the message out.
Many of those who raise funds for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation do so in honor of a lost loved one or to pay homage a member of the NYPD or FDNY who died on September 11, 2001. In Nicole DeFilippi’s case, it’s not about memorializing an individual, but to commemorate all who lost their lives; those who were at work, first responders who attempted to save others, and for all those families, some of which she knows, who lost loved ones and have never been able to have complete closure.
DeFilippi has a number of relatives and friends whose mothers, fathers, cousins, etc. were police officers and first responders that day. One of the main reasons for her involvement is to raise funds for them – both living and deceased first responders. She feels it’s the least she could do to recognize what these men and women did on 9/11.
Like others, DeFilippi was drawn to the NYC Tunnel to Towers Run & Walk after watching the event on television. “Every year my mother and I would watch the broadcast of the event on TV,” Defilippi said. “We were filled with emotions seeing all those complete the run. I just started researching the foundation and felt a connection to it. A few weeks later, the tower climb registration was released and I signed up instantly. I knew this was a foundation I wanted to be involved with, even in the smallest way.”
DeFilippi, who founded the group Team Ramily in 2015 when she participated in the inaugural tower climb at One World Trade Center, raises money by soliciting donations through phone calls and emails, and by sharing her CrowdRise account on various social media platforms.
Her advice to anyone looking to get involved is pretty straight forward. “Just jump right in,” DeFilippi said. “Share your page on Facebook, Instagram, etc. and express what the organization means to you. People are more inclined to donate when they can relate to you or understand the passion you have for an organization. I think it’s also important to share what T2T does now in its continued work to aid and assist first responders and veterans.”
Despite being unfamiliar with the Foundation and its programs, Yve Sturman participated in her first NYC Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk in 2014 after being invited by a friend and first responder from New York. Like many others, after witnessing the emotion and inspiration that came along with the event, firsthand, Sturman was hooked. She also saw the healing that the race brought to her friend, who had been involved in the recovery efforts after 9/11.
Later in 2014, after NYPD officers Liu and Ramos were assassinated, Sturman got a terrific sense of how the Tunnel to Towers Foundation answers the call when first responders lose their lives in the line of duty. In just 10 days, the Foundation raised $1 million to support the families of Liu and Ramos. Sturman decided to step things up in terms of fundraising after seeing T2T’s commitment to the families left behind, and learning of what it does for wounded service members.
Storytelling has been the best approach for Sturman. “I firmly believe in the power of the narrative,” Sturman said. “People are more likely to support you if they can find a commonality with you. Here’s my story, here’s Stephen Siller’s story, here are the stories of the countless veterans who have received smart homes through the foundation, here is what the foundation has done for first responders after tragedy strikes, and here is where your money will be going.”
Yve shares the message a lot on social media and occasionally blogs about it. In addition, she always takes the time to send her donors thank you emails. She sees people’s time and money as precious commodities that should never be taken for granted, and considers herself fortunate to have people who recognize the importance of the Foundation’s work and continue to support her fundraising mission.
In addition to her participation in the T2T 5K Run & walk in New York, Sturman took part in the 2017 Tower Climb at One World Trade Center. She raised the funds required to participate in the event in less than 24 hours!
Sturman’s generosity isn’t limited to lending her support to T2T. She has braved the frigid Atlantic in polar bear plunges to support Special Olympics in February, one year donning a giant hot dog costume to reach her fundraising goal, and also hopes to ride in the Law Enforcement Unity tour this coming year. The latter is a bike ride from Chesapeake VA to the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial in Washington D.C. to support families of officers killed in the line of duty.
Sturman offers sage advice for those looking to get involved. “Don’t be afraid to do it,” Sturman said. “Many people say they hate asking their friends and family for money. I get it. But on the flip side, tell them the story and get them involved in your narrative and fundraising journey. I’ve learned these past few years that people really do want to “do good” as the foundation highlights. Many just don’t have a clear avenue to do so. If you can get them involved, they get to give back, and you get to advance the work of a foundation you truly believe in. It’s a win-win!”
For Stephanie Tipping, each year the Tunnel to Towers Run & Walk represents a time to honor her brother, a time to recharge, and a time to reconnect with the people and values she holds dear. After Stephanie’s brother, FDNY firefighter John Tipping, sacrificed his life on September 11, 2001, she had a longing to honor his heroic efforts. Stephanie found a place to remember his life and his sacrifice when she came to her first Tunnel to Towers Run.
Stephanie’s annual pilgrimage to Ground Zero and the T2T Run started when she and a friend made their way into Manhattan for the first Tunnel to Towers Run. At the time, her children were babies. Stephanie’s husband wanted to provide her with an opportunity to bear witness to her brother’s selflessness, so he took charge of the little ones and the rest is history.
Now, Stephanie’s Team FF John Tipping is a lively mixture of family, friends, and co-workers. In all, about 25 people make their way each year to not only participate in the memorial run, but to honor and celebrate great lives.
The team arrives on a bus that they charter, with each participant donning a custom-designed Team Tipping shirt. Over the years they have raised thousands of dollars (despite having no previous fundraising experience). “My brother made a choice to do what was right, and now I can do the right thing too,” Stephanie said. “It is my thank you to my brother for making the right decision. The Run gives me an opportunity to be part of something bigger than myself and to give back.”
Stephanie believes that the entire experience has been transformative for many members of her team. One of her team members, a police officer, finally joined in after years of resistance. Like many, he was dealing with anger and bitterness over many things that he had experienced as an NYPD officer. The T2T Run reenergized him. He was blown away by the experience. He has let go of that immense negativity and pain, and now focuses on all of the positives he has in his life.
Another of Stephanie’s friends struggled with claustrophobia. The thought of going through the tunnel was too much to bear. Overcoming this fear epitomizes the power of the human spirit. And then there’s a friend who had never ran a day in her life, but drew inspiration from the T2T experience, and has been running ever since.
Last year Stephanie had brain surgery and was not physically capable of running from the foot of the tunnel to the finish line, but she participated in the weekend nonetheless. She didn’t want to miss it. “I come away from the weekend feeling better about myself and the world,” Stephanie said. “This Run gives the world a place to celebrate goodness and good people like my brother. And, we are better for it.”
In 2014, when Ellen Scott first learned of the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk in NYC, her competitive juices began flowing. Despite September already being a hectic month for the school teacher, and the fact that the event was just weeks away, Scott was determined to put forth a fundraising effort. She gathered a team of eleven, posted her story on Facebook, and was able to raise nearly $1,400. An outstanding effort given the circumstances.
In year two, Scott and her team raised over $7,000, and together have brought in close to $17,000 in total since beginning the endeavor three years ago!
Scott’s story is unlike others. On February 20, 2001, her brother Robert, a lance corporal in the United States Marine Corp, had his service to the country cut short when he was killed in an automobile accident while returning to his base. He was just 20 years of age.
Life got even more difficult for Scott and her family on the morning of September 11, 2001. Her father, Chief James Romito of the Port Authority Police Department, courageously went up to the twenty-seventh floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. He was supervising the effort to rescue citizens from the building. After summoning officers to head outside for first-aid supplies, the floors above him began to cave in. According to a colleague’s account, Chief Romito turned back from a clear stairwell to go back to alert a group of firefighters. He was found beneath the rubble with colleagues PAPD officers James Parham and Stephen Huczko, Lieutenant Robert Cirri, and Captain Kathy Mazza, along with a woman they attempted to rescue. Chief Romito, who was 51 years old, was instrumental in safely evacuating numerous people.
“Running in my dad’s name keeps his memory alive,” Scott said. “I am extremely passionate about police and military. My love for the military comes from my brother. My father lost his life doing his job. I also married a police officer. I know how hard they work and the sacrifices they make for the job. I also know firsthand the sacrifices the family members of police officers make. I always felt so proud of my dad. He was my hero long before 9/11. I feel this same sense of pride being married to a police officer. He is always “on duty” and is the first to help anyone in need.”
Scott does most of her fundraising via Facebook. She shares her father’s story and photos, and posts once or twice a week. She tags people who have donated and thanks them on social media as well. Scott also likes to share videos highlighting the Foundation’s Building for America’s Bravest program, citing the power of the message.
Participating in the T2T Run and raising funds to support the Foundation’s programs is extremely important to Scott. “Knowing that funds raised through this event benefit members of our military enables me to be a small part of thanking the men and women who sacrifice so much to protect our freedom,” Scott said. “Tunnel to Towers is my way of giving back and doing good in loving memory of my dad and brother.”
Like many firefighters who participate in Tunnel to Towers Run & Walk events, Robert Sutherland, a member of the East Farmingdale Volunteer Fire Department on Long Island, retraces Stephen Siller’s steps by wearing his turnout gear from start to finish.
On September 24, 2017, for the third consecutive year, Sutherland will be honoring the memory of two men, Kevin Smith and Welles Crowther, who paid the ultimate price on 9/11. In addition, he will now pay homage to Bob Newman, an FDNY firefighter who succumbed to 9/11-related lung cancer in February of this year.
Smith, a 23-year veteran of the FDNY and a charter member of its Hazardous Materials Company 1 (HAZMAT), was one of the 343 FDNY members who perished after responding to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Smith also served as a volunteer with the East Farmingdale FD with Sutherland’s father.
Crowthers, an equities trader at Sandler O’Neill and Partners, LP, was a volunteer member of the Empire Hook and Ladder Company, No.1, in Upper Nyack, NY. Crowthers organized a rescue effort on the floors high above where the official rescue workers were able to ascend. In one instance, he carried a woman down to the 61st floor, before returning to the 78th floor to rescue others. Crowthers, affectionately known as the man in the red bandanna, is believed to have saved a dozen people.
Newman served the country in Vietnam before becoming an FDNY firefighter. He spent over 40 years in the department. Newman was one of the many firefighters running into the towers on September 11. He worked at Ground Zero doing the rescue and recovery period for weeks and served the department for another four years prior to retiring.
“Bob Newman was my neighbor since I was a very young boy,” Sutherland said. “Bob always regaled me with tales of his days in the department, saying how it was the greatest job in the world. He was hoping that I would get into the department as well. I will remember him as I take each step in the race.”
Sutherland’s fundraising approach entails reaching out to 150 coworkers via email and posting on social media. Following up is also a key step in fundraising. Sutherland thanks all donors and provides updates as to where he is relative to his goal. He also shows his appreciation by sending personal thank you cards after the event with photos, his run time, and the final fundraising tally.
“Don’t be afraid to share posts or send emails,” Sutherland said. “There are a lot of people who were touched by that day, and want to do what they can to help. I don’t just ask for donations, but ask for people to run with me as well. The Foundation does amazing things with the funds raised and is very active in the emergency services community, which I appreciate as a volunteer firefighter.”
Like many T2T supporters, Jacqueline Lopez raises funds to pay homage to a loved one; in her case, the memory of her husband Luis Lopez. Luis was an NYPD Lieutenant who, in 2012, was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease that was contracted through his work at Ground Zero. In June of 2015, after three years of confinement to a wheel chair and having to use supplemental oxygen, Luis succumbed to the disease. He spent nearly 15 months in the hospital during his last three years of life. Luis Lopez served NYC as a police officer for 27 years.
Jacqueline refers to her late husband as her hero. “He was my warrior,” Jacqueline said. “I began fundraising because it was a way for me to keep Luis’ legacy alive. He was a man who came from nothing and believed in helping others. I also wanted to keep 9/11 actively in the thoughts and minds of people and keep them informed that 9/11 not only affected thousands on that day but there are thousands of people sick and suffering today because of their work at Ground Zero.”
Before running in the annual Tunnel to Towers Run & Walk (2017 was her second year fundraising for T2T), Jacqueline participated in the 9/11 Memorial Museum 5K for three years, raising over $5,000. However, she now feels that Tunnel to Towers is the right foundation for her, citing T2T’s generosity with families who have lost a loved one in the line of duty, as well as its support of injured service members needing custom homes.
Jacqueline uses common methods to raise funds. She uses Facebook to share her fundraising page, and utilizes her NYPD network of friends and supporters to spread the word though emails and posters. She typically includes photos of Luis so others can see the devastating effects of his 9/11 illness in hope that they can form a connection with her story. Each time a donation is made, Jacqueline sends a personal thank you via email.
She also carries out her fundraising initiatives for Scott Vasel of Park Ridge, N.J. On September 10, 2001, Scott started a job at the World Trade Center as a disaster recovery specialist with Marsh & McLennan. He lost his life on just his second day with the company, leaving behind a wife and two young children.
Like most other fundraisers, Jacqueline believes in word of mouth. “If you’re looking to begin fundraising, make your story known to others,” she said. “Help them understand what the Tunnel to Towers organization is all about and how much it does for first responders and veterans around the country.”
Honoring the legacy of his father, FDNY Battalion Chief Orio Palmer, is Keith Palmer’s motivation for raising funds for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Orio Palmer, a 20-year veteran of the FDNY, was one of 343 firefighters who perished on September 11, 2001. Keith is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and generosity that raising funds in his father’s name has resulted in. Through the generosity of friends, friends of friends, family, acquaintances, and complete strangers, Keith is extremely proud of the fact that Team Orio has raised over $20,000 for the Foundation since it began fundraising!
Use of social media, mainly Facebook, has been the key to Keith’s success. The following are some of his strategies:
Make a great case for fundraising. Tell people why you’re passionate about the cause!
Post regularly, but do not be overbearing. Post once or twice a week in the months leading up to the event, and post more frequently in days leading up the event.
Make it as easy as possible for people to sign up/donate. Provide instructions whenever possible. The fewer steps, the better.
Encourage people to share the donation link to create a considerably larger network of people.
Create some healthy competition among your team of fundraisers.
Keep it fun!
When Ed Welter heard Stephen Siller’s remarkable story upon beginning his volunteer role at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, he immediately knew he wanted to put his time and talent to work for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
2021 represents the tenth year that Ed will carry out fundraising for the Foundation. Ed had raised over $14,000 in his first year, and his team “Friends of the Memorial” brought in over $100,000 in total since 2020
In addition, Ed has put his 30-year career in construction management to work by providing estimates for all of our smart homes. Many thanks to Ed for his incredible effort in rallying support and raising funds for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
Calling Catherine Buchanan a passionate supporter of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation is an understatement! Ms. Buchanan, a Co-owner/showroom manager at Carpet One Floor & Home in Westland, Michigan, was introduced to the Foundation and the Building for America’s Bravest program at a convention in Phoenix in the winter of 2014. After hearing telling words from FDNY representatives, a few severely injured service members, and the chairman of the Foundation, Catherine was hooked.
Her methods of raising funds and awareness include sharing inspirational Foundation videos, selling raffle tickets, holding 50/50 drawings, selling carpet remnants with all proceeds going to the cause, selling t-shirts, carrying out fundraising events, and making outstanding use of social media. Her mantra is to constantly tell the story! We thank Catherine and everyone associated with Carpet One for their incredible support.
Dana DiSanto, along with her parents, has been either volunteering her time and talent, or participating in the NYC Tunnel to Towers Run & Walk since the inaugural event in 2002, but didn’t begin her fundraising efforts until 2016 when she participated in the Foundation’s Tower Climb at One World Trade Center.
In a very short period of time, she has done a tremendous job in bringing in donations. In fact, come September 24, 2017, the date of the 16th Annual T2T Run & Walk, DiSanto hopes to have raised $10,000!
Social media is the secret to her success. “I post a lot!” DiSanto said. “I basically use every social media platform, and tell everyone I meet about it. In the beginning I was a little shy. But, I realized that once people saw how much it meant to me, they were willing to donate each time I asked.”
While the family recognizes all of those who lost their lives or where affected by the tragic events of September 11, 2001, it pays special homage to FDNY Lieutenant Paul Mitchell, who was one of the 343 members of the FDNY who to lose his life while saving others. Lieutenant Mitchell was a dear friend of DiSanto’s father.