Charitable Group Pays Off Mortgages for 50 Military, First Responder and Law Enforcement Heroes


 By Amanda Thomason  October 12, 2021 at 7:42am

Over 20 years ago in New York City, firefighter Stephen Siller had finished his day and was headed for some time off when a plane hit the World Trade Center.

He immediately went back, and even when the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel was closed, he ran to the scene with 60 pounds of gear.

He died that day, giving his life to save others, but his legacy has lived on through “Tunnel to Towers,” an organization started by Stephen’s brother Frank to honor his late brother’s memory by helping pay off the mortgages of military, law enforcement and first responder heroes.

Since then, the group has helped many families by relieving them of one of their biggest financial burdens: Their mortgages. Thanks to many generous donors, the organization recently announced its biggest give yet.

“I thought it was fitting to do it on [Fox News’ 25th anniversary] that we are delivering 50 mortgage-free homes today,” CEO and chairman Siller said, according to Fox News.

The recipients of the 50 payoffs include the families of 20 police officers, 12 firefighters, 15 military personnel, a conservation officer, a state trooper and a sheriff’s deputy.

One of the recipients is Gigi McCollum, whose husband Rylee McCollum was one of the 13 service members who were killed in Afghanistan in August. Gigi recently gave birth to their baby daughter, and now she and her new baby will have a house of their own — completely paid off.

“I spoke to Gigi and I said we’re gonna build you a mortgage-free home for that Gold Star family,” Siller continued. “This is what we’re able to do because of [Fox News’] viewers that help us.”

Another recipient was the family of U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, who died in 2019 after being wounded in combat in Afghanistan.

“Thanks to the generosity of this great nation, the Gonzalez family and 49 additional families will never have to worry about making another mortgage payment, and will always have a place to call home,” Siller said, according to the News Bulletin of Crestview, Florida.

The news was made public on the 25th Anniversary of Fox News, and Siller made sure to recognize the many donations that made the payoff possible.

“Announced today LIVE on Fox & Friends, Tunnel to Towers has paid off the mortgages on 50 homes of fallen heroes across the country,” the group’s Facebook page posted on Oct. 7.

“In the largest one-day mortgage pay off in the Foundation’s history, 15 Gold Star and 35 Fallen First Responder families across 18 states have had their financial burdens lifted and will never have to worry about losing their family homes.”

Siller recently completed a walk that spanned six states in six weeks, racking up 537 miles before Sept. 11 in an effort to raise more awareness and donations. FOX Corporation also donated $1 million to the cause.

“This year, Americans came together to remember the incredible loss of life that occurred 20 years ago when evil struck at the heart of our great nation,” Siller said.

“The Tunnel to Towers Foundation promised to never forget what happened on that day and so many people across the country have joined us on our mission of doing good by giving back to our heroes, both living and fallen.”

Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she’s strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.

As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn’t really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.

She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she’s had teal hair.

With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children’s books with her husband, Edward.


Austin, Texas

Languages Spoken

English und ein bißchen Deutsch

Topics of Expertise

Faith, Animals, Cooking

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