Added Tunnel to Towers 5K to Donnellson’s July 4 schedule >

Donnellson Vision Group is bringing Tunnel to Towers 5K to the July 4th celebrations


FORT MADISON – Do good and never forget.

That is the motto of an organization whose sole purpose is to help and honor families who have lost loved ones in the process of first responder service – the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

The New York-based charitable foundation was founded by the family of Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter who lost his life on September 11th.

Assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1, Siller had just finished his shift and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he heard through his scanner about a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. When Stephen heard the news, he called his wife Sally and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later. He returned to Squad 1 to get his gear. Stephen drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (now the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel), but it was already closed for safety reasons. Determined to do his duty, he strapped on 60 pounds. gear on his back and ran through the tunnel to the Twin Towers on foot, where he gave his life to save others.

Now, Donnellson native Julie Humes is bringing the foundation’s efforts to Donnellson as part of the community’s Fourth of July schedule.

Foundation funds help build homes and pay off mortgages for first responders who become disabled or die in the line of duty. The foundation has many different fundraisers, including a Climb New York event taking place on June 5 where people climb 104 floors at One World Observatory to raise funds.

Humes is a first responder flight nurse, as is her husband Jason, who is also a Captain in the Army Reserve.

The Tunnel to Towers 5K Run/Walk is an organized event taking place across the country. Iowa currently has five races, one in Hiawatha, Siouxland, Forest City, Donnellson and a 9/11 run in Ankeny.

According to Humes, 95 cents of every dollar raised goes towards the foundation’s program, including the Fallen First Responder program and the Gold Star Family Home program.

“This is our first year doing that,” Humes said. “Last year, Donnellson’s 4th of July was about to unravel because no one was ready to embrace it. I was born and raised in Donnellson and didn’t want it to go away.”

Taking the run to Donnellson wasn’t a difficult decision for Humes and the group. She said integrating the region’s bravest into the day’s celebrations was a breeze, and then supporting first responders was the icing on the cake.

The foundation has stipulations and a strict approval process to bring runs to the community.

“I had to fill out an essay application and interview the group from New York. I had to tell them what ideas we had for the run and what I thought, and they decided to agree to our request,” Humes said.

One of the unique aspects of the run is the parking of first responder vehicles along the entire 5K course. She said there were also plans to have photos and resumes along the road of every first responder who died in the attack on the World Trade Center.

“It’s a pretty lonely run along the old highway and past the cemetery. I’m a runner and I was wondering what we could do to make it more exciting,” Humes said.

“They prefer to involve fire and rescue workers. We are also reaching out to soldiers and hope to get enough vehicles to line this entire route.”

She said she is also reaching out to the local cemetery authority to allow more than 60 flags to be planted along the route.

As this is the first year the run will be held in Donnellson, she wants it to grow annually and potentially include the foundation’s 9/11 NEVER FORGET mobile exhibit. Getting the memorial trailer to Donnellson would cost about $2,500 a day plus lodging for the drivers.

“We want to make this event something that people will not forget. That is the purpose and we hope to find people who will continue to support us.

The day begins with a breakfast burrito fundraiser from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Donnellson Fire Department, with funds going to the fire department to help replace self-contained breathing apparatus. The run begins at 7:30 am with an opening flag ceremony and remarks.

Then Smokin’ J’s BBQ will be available after the run along with music from Thin Blue Line, Lee County Houligans Acoustic Band and other vendors.

The city’s annual Fourth of July parade follows. Humes hopes all vehicles roll out of the way in the parade.

“I’m looking forward to starting this. I want to bring it to town every year. There are many people who love to run on July 4th, so we hope you have a great time.

Those interested can register for the event at

For more information about the foundation and the event, visit For more information about the run or to inquire about donations or sponsorships, email Humes at [email protected]

Pat Jones Construction is committed as one of the event’s sponsors, but other sponsorships are available through the foundation for the local run.

There are four different tiers – $250 Booster Sponsor, $500 Patriot Sponsor, $1,000 Hero Sponsor, and $2,500 Bravest Sponsor. Sponsorships are specially created by Tunnel to Towers and all checks are mailed to Staten Island to go directly into the program.

Sponsors will be listed on the local event website and mentioned in flyers along with other benefits.

Registration costs are $30 for individuals, $25 for first responders and military personnel, $20 for children 13-17 years old, and $12 and $15 under.

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