Donnellson Vision group bringing Tunnel to Towers 5K to 4th of July festivities
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – To do good and never forget.
That’s the motto of an organization whose sole purpose is to help and honor families who’ve lost loved ones in the line of first responder service – Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
The New York-based charitable foundation was created by the family of Stephen Siller, a New York firefighter who lost his life on Sept. 11.
Siller was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1, had just finished his shift, and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he got word over his scanner of a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Upon hearing the news, Stephen called his wife Sally and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later. He returned to Squad 1 to get his gear. Stephen drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (now the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel), but it had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 lbs. of gear to his back, and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he gave up his life saving others.
Now Donnellson native Julie Humes is bringing the foundation’s efforts to Donnellson as part of the community’s 4th of July schedule.
Funds from the foundation go to help build homes and pay off mortgages for first responders who become disabled or die in the line of duty. The foundation has many different fundraisers including a Climb New York event which is held on June 5, where people climb 104 stories in the One World Observatory to raise funds.
Humes is a first responder flight nurse as is her husband Jason, who’s also a Capt. in the Army Reserves.
The Tunnel to Towers 5K Run/Walk is an organized event that takes place all over the country. Iowa currently has five races, one in Hiawatha, Siouxland, Forest City, Donnellson, and a 9/11 run in Ankeny.
Humes said 95 cents of every dollar raised goes to the foundation program, including the Fallen First Responder program and the Gold Star Family Home program.
“This is our first year doing it,” Humes said. “Last year the Donnellson 4th of July was going to dissipate because no one was willing to take it on. I’m from Donnellson born and raised and didn’t want to see it go away.”
Bringing the run to Donnellson was not a difficult decision for Humes and the group. She said integrating the area’s bravest into the day’s festivities seemed a no-brainer and then helping support first responders is icing.
The foundation has stipulations in place and a tough approval process in bringing runs to the communities.
“I had to fill out an essay application and interview with the group out of New York. I had to tell them what ideas we had for the run and what I was thinking and they decided to approve our request,” Humes said.
One of the unique aspects of the run includes having first responder vehicles park along the entire 5K route. She said there are also plans to have photographs and bios along the road of each first responder who lost their life at the World Trade Center attack.
“It’s a pretty desolate run route along the old highway and past the cemetery. I’m a runner and I wondered what we could do to make it more exciting,” Humes said.
“They like to have fire and EMS personnel involved. We’re also reaching out to soldiers and our hope is to get enough vehicles to line this whole route.”
She said she’s also reaching out to the local cemetery board to have more than 60 flags put up along the run route.
With this being the first year of having the run in Donnellson, she would like to see it grow annually and possibly include the foundation’s 9/11 NEVER FORGET Mobile Exhibit. Bringing the memorial trailer to Donnellson would cost about $2,500 per day plus accommodations for the drivers.
“We want to build this event into something that people won’t forget. That’s the purpose and we’re hoping to get people who will continue to support us.
The day will begin with a breakfast burrito fundraiser from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Donnellson Fire Department with funds going to the fire department to replace self-contained breathers. The run starts at 7:30 a.m. with an opening flag ceremony and remarks.
Then Smokin’ J’s BBQ will be on hand, along with Thin Blue Line music, Lee County Houligans Accoustic band, and other vendors following the run.
The town’s annual 4th of July parade will follow. Humes hopes to have all the vehicles from the run to roll in the parade.
“I’m excited to get it started. I want to bring it to town every year. There are a lot of people who like to run 4th of July runs, so we’re hoping for a great turn out.
Those interested in registering for the event can do so at https://dogood.t2t.org/event/2022-tunnel-to-towers-5k-run-and-walk-donnellson-ia/e386313.
Pat Jones Construction is signed on as one of the sponsors of the event, but others sponsorships are available through the foundation for the local run.
There are four different levels – Booster sponsor $250, Patriot sponsor $500, Hero sponsor $1,000, and Bravest sponsor $2,500. The sponsorships are specifically created by the Tunnel to Towers and all checks are sent to Staten Island to go straight to the program.
Sponsors get listed on the website for the local event and are mentioned in flyers among other benefits.
Registration costs are $30 for individuals, $25 for first responders and military personnel, $20 for children 13-17, and 12 and under are $15.