A New York City charity best known for helping the families of fallen first responders donated about 15,000 face masks and shields to Morton Hospital in Taunton on Friday as part of a new effort to support healthcare workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation made the donation through its new COVID-19 Heroes Fund. More deliveries of personal protective equipment is on the way to other Massachusetts hospitals, and more than 4,000 pieces of PPE were delivered to the State Police Association of Massachusetts on Friday, the nonprofit said.
Heidi Taylor, president of Morton Hospital, said in a statement that the hospital was “humbled and honored” by the donation.
“Their very generous donation of protective face masks and face shields will help complement the stockpile of PPE we’ve been able to acquire and maintain to ensure we can best protect our staff and patients every day,” Taylor said. “We truly appreciate the Tunnel to Towers organization’s generosity, and we applaud them for all they are doing to support front line caregivers and first responders as we work together with our communities to fight this pandemic.”
The foundation initially reached out to Governor Charlie Baker’s office and were told that Morton Hospital could use the PPE donations, said Frank Siller, chief executive of Tunnel to Towers.
“We found out that was the place of most need and that’s where we went,” Siller said in a telephone interview.
Siller established Tunnel to Towers to honor his brother, Stephen Gerard Siller, a 34-year-old New York City firefighter who was killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
The nonprofit was orginally formed to pay off the mortgages of firefighters killed in the line of duty. Its mission expanded to include the families of fallen police officers with small children after New York City police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot and killed while sitting in their police cruiser in December, 2014.
Since then, Tunnel to Towers has paid off the mortgages of more than 150 fallen first responders, including Weymouth Police Sergeant Michael Chesna, who was shot and killed in the line of duty in 2018, and Worcester firefighter Jason Menard, who was killed while battling a four-alarm house fire last year.
The COVID-19 Heroes Fund began with an initial pledge of $3-million and has since grown to about $5-million, according to the release. The foundation is partnering with artist Scott LoBaido, who commissioned the painting “Sunrise: A Tribute to First Responders,” which depicts first responders include a firefighter, police officer, health care worker, an EMT, and a member of the military raising a tattered American flag at sunrise, as the bottom of the flagpole jams the coronavirus into the ground.
The painting was unveiled on Sunday, Trevor Tamsen, spokesman for the foundation said in an e-mail. Tunnel to Towers hopes to raise $10 million for the COVID-19 hero’s fund.
Prints of the painting are available until May 25 on the Tunnel to Tower website for $100, and prints will be given to individuals who make $11 a month contributions to the foundation, according to the release. All of the proceeds from the prints and the painting will go towards the COVID-19 Heroes Fund.
LoBaido, whose work centers patriotism and the American flag said in a phone interview that he wanted to do something “epic” when he saw that the heroes of this crisis were frontline healthcare workers and first responders. Shortly thereafter he got a call from Tunnel to Towers about commissioning the painting.
“It’s probably my most epic painting,” LoBaido said. “And I’ve done thousands and thousands of them.”
Adam Sennott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org