Visitation bake sale kicks off fundraising for wounded warrior

Back in December, when Jack Malone and Larry Morrish, volunteersfor the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, approachedArlene Figaro, principal of Visitation Academy, about holding afundraiser for U.S. Army soldier and Fort Hamilton High Schoolgraduate Bryan Dilberian, wounded in Afghanistan, she wasimmediately receptive, even suggesting a date.

I looked at my calendar and I said ‘February 14 – the day oflove,’ Figaro recalled.

And so it was. On February 14, the eighth grade class atVisitation Academy at 90th Street and Ridge Boulevard held aValentine’s Day bake sale. The proceeds, which amounted to $2,500according to Morrish, will go toward Tunnel to Towers’ effort tobuild a smart home for Dilberian, who lost both legs below the kneeand his left arm below the elbow when an improvised explosivedevice detonated near him on a routine patrol in Afghanistan, backin July. Smart homes are equipped with automated fixtures andappliances customized for the disabled.

When we first found out about it, we were all like, ‘Oh my God,this is great,” said Visitation eighth grader Gabriella Mass. Andknowing that we’re doing something for [the soldiers] when theyserve our country, is really nice.

Eight grader Desiree Parke agrees with her principal about theday chosen for the event.

Valentine’s Day is a day about love and we’re technicallyspreading the love by baking for [Bryan], Parke said.

The February 14 event kicks off a season of Brooklyn Tunnel toTowers fundraisers for Dilberian.

According to Figaro, who estimated the fundraiser would draw 250patrons including students, parents and other community members,Dilberian’s story teaches the children a valuable lesson.

I think it’s very important for the youth of America to knowthat there are young men and women protecting our country while wego about our business, she said.

Tunnel to Towers is an organization formed in tribute to StephenSiller, a firefighter who died on 9/11. After hearing news of theWorld Trade Center attacks, Siller ran through the Brooklyn BatteryTunnel – closed to traffic because of the attack – with 60 poundsof gear on his back, to join his company at Ground Zero. Theorganization supports children who have lost a parent,firefighters, and military personnel injured in the line ofduty.

In addition to Command Sergeant Major Sylvia Laughlin of theFort Hamilton Army Base, firefighters from Engine Company 241 andLadder Company 109 were on hand to show their support for Tunnel toTowers and Dilberian.

They’re doing things people don’t want to do, said firefighterKevin Newman of Ladder Company 109 on our troops fighting overseas.They’re not at home, watching TV. They’re sacrificing years oftheir lives to go off and be away from their families. So we haveto support them. It’s important.

When asked how this fundraising campaign is different fromnumerous other efforts, Morrish points to the fact that Dilberianis from the neighborhood.

How can we turn our back on a brother? he asked.

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