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Locals Team Up for Firefighter Foundation

Jessica Sanchez and her friends want to raise awareness about the Stephen Siller Foundation, which raises funds for burn centers and homes for military veterans with devastating injuries.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Brooklyn firefighter Stephen Siller had just returned home from an overnight shift and was ready to play golf with his three brothers when he heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center.

He attempted to get to Manhattan, but the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel was already shut down. He abandoned his truck on the side of the road, and as many witnesses have said, he ran through the tunnel to help. He perished, like so many others, try to save victims on 9-11.

His story has inspired thousands of firefighters across the country to continue serving their local communities, and inspired other individuals like Bedford's Jessica Sanchez to honor his courage by retracing his heroic steps from Brooklyn to Ground Zero in the "Tunnel to Towers Run."

"I decided to do it because his story is inspiring and in my group of friends we have so many ties to the firefighting community," said Sanchez, a Bedford resident of 11 years who has been involved in both the Bedford Hills Fire Department and Mt. Kisco Fire Department.

She participated in the run held last Sunday on a team of runners sponsored by Village Social in Mt. Kisco, to which over 70 local individual and businesses contributed $4,600 for the foundation. Their team ended up being the seventh highest fundraising team out of 481 teams entered in this year's race—the largest field entered in 11 years.

The team was composed of Sanchez and six other women—all of whom have husbands, brothers or uncles that are firefighters—Meaghan Hickey of Katonah; Stephanie Bueti of Katonah; Shauna Breese of Bedford Hills; Andrea Lieto of Bedford Hills; Patricia Pepin of Bedford Hills and Kara Lombardo of Bedford Hills.

Over half of the 5K race takes place inside the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. With almost 30,000 runners this year, the inside of the 1.8 mile-long tube did get a bit claustrophobic, Sanchez said, but when she looked around she counted her blessings.

"We ran with amputees, who were getting through the race with no arms or no legs or prosthetic limbs and they were amazing," she said. "It was an emotional experience I'll never forget."

The run raises money for the foundation, which focuses on two main initiatives: Building specially adapted homes for military returning with devastating injuries, and programs that make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of children who have lost one or more parents.

For more information about the foundation, or to donate, click here.

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