Last October, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation heard about the tragic death of Thomas Cutinella, a Long Island high school football player who died on October 1, 2014, through an email sent by a family friend. The purpose of this email was to share with the Siller family and the staff at Tunnel to Towers that just days before Thomas’ death, he posted about his passion for the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk on his Twitter account. The event was held just days before. Specifically, the family friend wanted us to know that Thomas’ favorite 5K was the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk, and to apprise us of how much the event meant to him. All of us at the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation were touched by Thomas’ support and were terribly sad to learn of the passing of such an amazing, young man. We often fear that young people will forget about the sacrifices made on September 11, 2001, or that too many Americans have forgotten the sacrifices that our military and first responders continue to make every day in the line of duty. To hear that a young person loved the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk, which honors both military and first responders, and all that it stands for, was so special.
A few months after this initial conversation, we heard from Thomas’ friends again. They were writing to inform us that not only were they planning to run in the 2015 Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk to honor Stephen Siller and all those who passed away on September 11, 2001, but to honor Thomas as well. One friend stated that Thomas’ enthusiasm about the event inspired him to participate.
Thomas’ friends recently started a club at school called Tommy’s Vets, a club that helps our military and first responders – something that Thomas, inspired by the patriotism displayed at the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk, was truly passionate about. The club set up a fundraising team through the Foundation, and as a group raised $5,743 to support the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s mission to support military and first responders! Wow!
We are so impressed by the selflessness displayed by these young people to do something for others in honor of their friend. What an amazing tribute! We are so proud of all of all those who participated in the Run & Walk as part of Tommy’s Vets. Thomas’ patriotism has spread to so many other people. What a terrific legacy!
Our story about Thomas doesn’t end here though. Through a Newsday article, we were even more amazed to learn that Thomas’ mother, Kelli, also participated in the Run & Walk this year – the first one without her son. However, Kelli had the chance to run next to a woman with a very special heart – Thomas’ heart. Thomas was an organ donor. When he passed away, a young college student received his heart. Thomas’s mother keeps in touch with all of her son’s organ recipients and planned to meet up with his heart recipient, Karen Hill, at the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk on September 27, 2015. Kelli describes the experience of running in honor of Thomas alongside her son’s organ recipient below:
“It was amazing to me. This was Thomas’ favorite run and I knew he was with me.”
This story deeply touches the hearts of all of us here at the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. For the Siller family, the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk is about love and healing; a positive day in which we celebrate the lives of those lost on September 11, 2001. To hear that a mother who lost her son was able to find some healing at the 2015 Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk means everything to us. We are so proud to continue to “do good” in Stephen’s name.
We are extremely touched by the impact that Thomas has had on the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, and look forward working with Tommy’s Vets in the future in our common goal. Thank you for allowing us to be part of Thomas’ incredible story.
“Let Us Do Good”