By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Golfers are joining the fight to raise funds to build a wheelchair accessible home for a triple-amputee Afghanistan war veteran from Brooklyn.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, as part of its Building For America’s Bravest program, will host a tournament at the Dyker Beach Golf Course in Bay Ridge on Veteran’s Day, Monday, Nov. 12, to raise money that will go toward the construction a so-called “smart home,” complete with wheelchair ramps, lowered cabinets, and handicap-accessible bathrooms, for U.S. Army Spc. Bryan Dilberian.
Dilberian, a Fort Hamilton High School graduate, lost both of his legs and his left arm when an improvised explosive device (I.E.D.) went off while he was on patrol in the Arghandab River Valley in Afghanistan on July 1, 2011.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation, named in memory of New York City Firefighter Stephen Siller, who was killed in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, raises money for various charitable causes, including the effort to build “smart homes” for wounded veterans.
The foundation is currently in the process of raising funds to build 14 houses in the Northeast. To date, approximately 23 percent of the funding for Dilberian’s home has been raised, according to the foundation’s website, www.tunneltotowers.org.
The golf outing is very important to the foundation, Jack Furnari, director of golf tournaments, said. “We do golf outings because Stephen was going to play golf that day with his brothers,” he said. Instead, Siller raced through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel on foot to reach the Twin Towers to try to save lives, Furnari said.
The foundation became involved in the effort to help wounded soldiers, according to Furnari “because soldiers are trying to stop another Sept. 11 from happening.”
The fundraising effort for Dilberian has received help from a variety of big-hearted individuals. During the spring, actor Gary Sinise, who was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of “Lt. Dan” in Forest Gump, performed a concert with his group the Lt. Dan Band, at Brooklyn College and donated the proceeds to the effort. Students from Visitation Academy, a Catholic school for girls, held a bake sale. The Rev. Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, who was a chef before joining the priesthood, was the celebrity chef at a dinner party at Hunter’s Steak and Ale House in Bay Ridge.
Northfield Bank is a major sponsor of the upcoming golf tournament. “It’s such a great cause,” Damien Kane, the bank’s director of marketing, said. “We’re really trying to raise money for the guys because they deserve it.”
The date of the tournament, Veteran’s Day, was deliberately chosen, Kane said. “It’s a perfect day for a cause like this one,” he said.
The bank first became involved with the foundation through its annual run. The foundation sponsors an annual race through the tunnel and into lower Manhattan, retracing the steps Siller took on Sept. 11, 2001. Hundreds of people take part in the run each year.
“We became involved with their run. We send a lot of employees to volunteer,” Kane said. “It was a natural fit for us. It is something we really believe it.”
The bank will also have an army of volunteers at the golf outing. The volunteers will hand out food and hot chocolate to golfers, Kane said.
For more information on the golf tournament, visit www.tunneltotowers.org.