Tunnel to Towers Foundation meets fundraising goal

Sandy Hillman Communications reached out to the family of FDNY firefighter Stephen Siller, who, though off duty, died on 9/11 after running with 60 pounds of gear through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center to help.

Client: Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation (Staten Island, NY)
Agency: Sandy Hillman Communications (New York)
Campaign: 10th Annual FDNY Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run
Duration: October 2010 – September 2011

An employee connection first led Sandy Hillman Communications to donate money and Christmas presents in 2001 to the family of FDNY firefighter Stephen Siller, who, though off duty, died on 9/11 after running with 60 pounds of gear through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center to help. His family founded the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation in 2002, and the agency began pro bono PR support.

“Sandy Hillman Communications helped grow the foundation,” says chairman Frank Siller. “We wouldn't have been able to reach and help as many people as we have without them.”

The primary fundraiser has been an annual 5K run/walk that retraces Stephen's final footsteps. It originally benefited orphaned children and burn victims. Focus has expanded to multiple causes, including military causes.

Objectives this year were to meet a 10-year fundraising goal of $10 million and increase run/walk participation by 20% over 2010.

Strategy
Media relations, social media outreach, partnerships, and events drove awareness and participation.

Agency SVP Liz Feldman says new elements were promoted including 31 runs throughout the country and partnerships with ESS (eyewear makers) and NASCAR, which both donated 25% of proceeds from commemorative products.

Messaging also highlighted that the bulk of all 2011 donations will help build smart homes for amputee veterans.

Tactics
Siller family members served as media spokespeople. General consumer-, non-profit-, and military-related outlets were targeted.

News and updates were posted on the foundation's Facebook and Twitter properties.

Rudy Giuliani (chairman of the run/walk) spoke at a September 9 fundraising concert on Staten Island where The New York Tenors and Five for Fighting performed.

Siller family members, wounded military members, NYFD fire commissioner, 2,000 West Point cadets, and 5,000 military personnel kicked off the race 9:11am on September 25. Near the finish line, firefighters flanked by military honor guards held photos of the 343 firefighters who died 9/11.

Giuliani and entertainers Dennis Miller, John Turturro (who's also a foundation board member and race emcee), and Gary Sinise spoke. Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band performed at the post-race celebration near Ground Zero.

Results
Siller says the run/walk generated more than $1 million ($2.5 million total was raised in 2011), and the 10-year $10 million goal was met.

Run/walk registrants increased from 20,000 in 2010 to 30,000 this year.

About 600 stories ran in outlets including The Wall Street Journal and AP.

CBS aired the race nationally, which Siller says prompted a $450,000 donation to build smart home.

Future
Feldman, who joined the foundation's board in October, says pro bono support will continue indefinitely.

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