Fate brought Randy Payne to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. After traveling to New York in 2002 and visiting Ground Zero, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, he and his family came across a touching embroidered memorial that paid homage to Stephen Siller. The memorial resonated with him. Months later, the Payne family made a return trip from Indianapolis to New York for the inaugural Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk.
Prior to the event, Randy contacted George Siller, and a long-standing, close friendship was born. Randy, who also met Tom Middleton, a retired London firefighter who has also become a dear friend, and many other members of the T2T family, wanted to do more than just participate. The 2003 Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk found the Payne family working registration, selling t-shirts, and pitching in wherever needed at the event.
It was after the 2005 Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk that Randy decided to begin fundraising for the Foundation. His initial effort was to share Stephen’s story with friends and associates the old-fashioned way – through word of mouth. He raised $975 the first year, and that number grew each year. Fast forward to 2012 when Randy learned that the Foundation would be building a smart home for Army Corporal Kyle Hockenberry, a triple-amputee, in Marietta, Ohio through the Building for America’s Bravest program. He got involved in a way he never imagined planning and carrying out Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walks in Cincinnati.
Overseeing these events enabled Randy to build a huge network of supporters, including his employer - Kroger. In short, since he began fundraising, he has raised over $150,000 to support the Foundation and its programs! He plans to exceed his goal of $15,000 in 2016!
Of the numerous, remarkable memories Randy and his family have of the Tunnel to Towers Run & Walk, one that stands out was being asked by Sally Siller, Stephen’s wife, to join her and the catastrophically injured service members at the start of the event in 2010.
Four years into his relationship with the Foundation, Randy was on Staten Island with George Siller getting a quasi-tour of all of the 9/11 memorials on Staten Island, when George turned to Randy and asked him how he actually became a T2T supporter. Randy told him about the day he came across that special, embroidered memorial for Stephen. George asked Randy if he knew who put that there. He replied that he assumed it was a member of the Siller family, but wasn’t sure who. George said, “It was me.”
It was fate alright.