Charity effort spearheaded by patriotic 8-year-old
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Nolan Keegan, a third grader at Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge, said he was saddened to see images on his television of wounded military veterans returning home from Afghanistan.
“I saw soldiers in wheelchairs with no legs and no arms. I thought it was very sad,” the precocious eight-year-old told the Brooklyn Eagle.
But Nolan decided that it wasn't enough to feel sad. He had to do something.
So, with help from a classmate, Jonathan Mundy, Nolan organized a drive to raise funds for an organization that helps military amputees rebuild their lives.
“It’s important to remember them and what they did for our country. We should never forget them,” Nolan said.
Out of the mouths of babes!
The effort raised a remarkable $2,200, mostly in the form of small donations from Holy Angels students, according to Mary Brannan, a teacher at the school. And it ended the school year on a positive note.
“They were great,” Brannan said, referring to Nolan and Jonathan. “They had fliers printed up. They came into each classroom to talk to the students. They were very serious about it.”
So impressive were Nolan and Jonathan as speakers that classmates reached into their piggy banks at home and returned to school with cash.
Within a few weeks, more than $2,000 had been raised.
Representatives of the Firefighter Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation got wind of what the Holy Angels kids were doing and were so impressed, they sent a speaker to the school to congratulate the children. Foundation representative Colleen Grace also spoke to the students about the importance of giving back to society.
The foundation is named in memory of Firefighter Stephen Siller, who was killed in the Sept. 11 attack at the World Trade Center. Siller was off-duty that day, but ran from Brooklyn to Manhattan, through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, to the Twin Towers to help the victims, hence the name of the foundation. The organization helps Sept. 11 survivors and families and also works with actor Gary Sinise of “Forest Gump” fame to raise money to build customized homes for wheelchair-bound military veterans.
Each year, thousands of people run through the tunnel to the World Trade Center site in an annual race in Siller’s memory.
Nolan’s mom, Erin Keegan, said he is proud of her son and his charitable instincts.
“My husband and I are proud but we’re not really surprised that he would do something like this,” she told the Eagle. “He’s a very patriotic little boy. He’s always talking about what a great country we live in and how we have to respect the flag. And he loves the military.”
Patriotism and service run in the Keegan family. Nolan’s dad is a firefighter and one of his uncles is a Navy SEAL.
Nolan, whose favorite subject at school is history, is also a talented young athlete. He plays ice hockey and lacrosse.
Nolan was the talk of the town at Holy Angels after his successful fundraising drive. But the modest third grader shrugged off praise. “It made me feel good that we did something nice for soldiers,” he said.