2016 Service Highlight: Supporting First Responders and the Military

 First responders at the start of the race. 

First responders at the start of the race. 

My name is Thomas Mandala, I am a second year student at the College of Staten Island’s Physical Therapy Program. This past year, as a part of the PT Day of Service, some classmates and I volunteered at the 15th annual Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk in New York City. This event raises money to help the families of first responders and military members who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

            When I first heard about the PTDOS, I was excited to have an opportunity to give back to our local community on Staten Island but could not decide where to do so. Although it’s true that volunteering in any capacity is always a worthwhile endeavor, I wanted to find something that my classmates and I were truly passionate about. After some research, we soon realized that the Tunnel to Towers was the perfect event for us. The foundation is named after a local hero and Staten Island native, firefighter Stephen Siller.  On 9/11, although off-duty, Stephen attempted to drive to Lower Manhattan through the Battery Tunnel and, upon realizing he was unable to do so, ran 3.5 miles in 60 lbs of gear before making the ultimate sacrifice while helping to save others. Our class is a part of a small and tight-knit program within the small and tight-knit community of Staten Island. While Stephen is one of Staten Island’s most cherished local heroes, there were hundreds more Staten Islanders just like him who gave their lives in the service of others on 9/11. In such a small community, nearly every single person was directly affected by the loss of a friend or loved one on 9/11, so this event means a great deal to the people that make up our campus. Additionally, as someone whose father and two uncles are firefighters that were fortunate enough to survive 9/11, this event has a special significance for me.

  College of Staten Island students: Thomas Mandala, Munir Bouzid, and Joseph Guarini (left to right) at the race.

College of Staten Island students: Thomas Mandala, Munir Bouzid, and Joseph Guarini (left to right) at the race.

            I am very proud to have participated in the PTDOS and represented our profession while in the service of others. However, I am even more proud of the event my classmates and I chose to volunteer at and the community where we go to school. I strongly encourage you to volunteer in any capacity you can find during next year’s PTDOS. Moreover, I challenge you to take it one step further and find a cause that you are passionate about, and one that makes a difference in the community where you go to school or work. This event had a profound impact on my life and I know that I will be participating in next year’s PTDOS; I hope that you will join me!

 Racers finishing! 

Racers finishing!