NEW YORK, May 1, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The Christopher Leadership Award will be presented to Frank Siller on Thursday May 23rd for the invaluable aid he brings to catastrophically injured veterans, first responders, and Gold Star families as Chairman and CEO of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, the charity he co-founded with his siblings in honor of their late brother Stephen, a New York City firefighter who was killed on 9/11.
The Christopher Leadership Award recognizes individuals whose work, actions, and example serve as a guiding light to others. Previous winners include Captain Scotty Smiley, the U.S. Army's first blind active-duty officer, and Patti Ann McDonald, widow of heroic NYPD Detective Steven McDonald.
On Sept. 11, 2001, firefighter Stephen Siller got the call that a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Stationed in Brooklyn, he drove the truck to the Battery Tunnel to get into Manhattan, only to find the tunnel shut down for security reasons. So Stephen strapped 60 pounds of gear to his back and ran through the tunnel to join rescue efforts at the Trade Center. The husband and father of five was killed when the Towers collapsed.
Stephen's six siblings were determined to not only keep his memory alive, but to do it in a way that would help others. In 2002, they created the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation (tunnel2towers.org), initially as a New York City-based charity run that retraced Stephen's steps on 9/11. But under the leadership of Chairman/CEO Frank Siller, Stephen's brother, the Foundation has grown into a national force for good that builds specially adapted smart homes for catastrophically injured members of the military who have lost arms and legs, pays off mortgages for families of first responders who have been killed in the line of duty, pays off mortgages for Gold Star families whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country, and supports a variety of community programs around the country. Since its inception, the Foundation has raised over $125 million dollars, with 95 cents of every dollar going to programs.
Frank told The Christophers that his family's willingness to help others stems from the example they saw set by their parents. "My parents had seven kids," he explained. "We were very poor, but we were never too poor to do something good for our neighbors." His parents often quoted the words of St. Francis of Assisi, "While we have time, let us do good," which the siblings adopted as the Foundation's motto. The Siller brothers and sisters were especially close to Stephen because he was only 10 years old when their parents died, so they each had a hand in raising him.
The losses that Frank has experienced in his life allow him to relate to the people the Foundation is helping. He said, "I understand exactly each point they're at because I lived it... After 9/11, so many people were there for our family. It lifts you to know you're not alone, and that people care and are praying for you. This is the message that we send to all these great families...We don't want to just pay off the mortgage or build them a mortgage-free home, a smart home; we want to be part of their lives. They join us on our mission and are our greatest ambassadors because they received it and they want to pay it forward to the next person...The more they do for somebody else, the better they're going to feel. And they do. It does lift you, it does heal you, and it does give you a great purpose that's bigger than [yourself]."
The Christophers, a nonprofit organization, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity. The ancient Chinese proverb —"It's better to light one candle than to curse the darkness"— serves as the Christopher motto and guides its publishing, radio, online, and awards programs. More information is available at www.christophers.org.
SOURCE The Christophers