NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – When Tunnel to Towers started, their focus was to assist families of first responders.
They donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the New York Firefighters Burn Center.
But when Hurricane Sandy hit the New York area, Tunnel to Towers shifted its focus to help those in need and provided assistance to local victims. They oversaw 15,000 volunteers who fixed or rebuilt over 3,000 homes.
- The Tunnel to Towers Foundation builds homes or pays off mortgages for families of those killed in the line of duty at home or abroad
- Find out more about the annual Tunnel to Towers run
"This isn't a hurricane that happened in Florida. It happened in the cold weather up north, so it was a very difference experience. These people really had a lot of physical needs. So we did a lot of the nitty gritty in the beginning," foundation vice-chairperson Mary Siller-Scullin said.
"We had our prayers answered by the Siller Foundation," one Sandy victim said. "They're giving us a house for a year so we can get back on our feet after Hurricane Sandy destroyed our house and our lives."
The foundation then helped hurricane relief efforts in New Orleans, Houston, and San Juan. In total an incredible one million man hours in volunteer work and has raised $12 million. Those funds were parlayed into $50 million in aid to storm victims. All the money raised went to the people who needed it most.
Brendan Marrocco is the first service member to survive an attack in Iraq that took all four of his limbs. In an effort to help a fellow Staten Island native, the Sillers' foundation built him a smart home.
That was the very first smart home Tunnel to Towers built. They now have a total of 75 smart homes designed or delivered to other critically injured veterans.
"This house being one story, being one story makes it 100 percent easier to do just day to day things," smart home recipient Eric Myers said.
"Probably just the independence, you know, I am not going to have to rely on anything, or anybody to do certain things for me," Stephen Valyou added.
"That's exactly what we're trying to do, give back some of their independence that they lost by protecting our country," Tunnel to Towers CEO Frank Siller explained.
The foundation started by assisting first responders and has carried on that tradition to assist policemen, US Marshals, Gold Start Families, and others killed in the line of duty.
The majority of the fund raising comes from corporate sponsors like GMC, Home Depot, Carpet One, Johnson and Johnson, and the New York Jets.
There are many fundraising events the individuals can participate in including the Tunnel to Towers run in New York, around the U.S. and overseas.
The annual Tower Climb, golf outing at Liberty National, and galas have also raised money for the cause.
Foundation organizers have also reached out to the public for donations of $11 a month for the new "In the Line of Duty" program which helps fund three housing programs – the Smart Home Program, Fallen First Responder Program, and Gold Star Family Home Program.
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