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5 Tips for Finding the Best 9/11 Volunteer Opportunity for You

Experts offer advice for 10th anniversary

4. Run for Good.

Regina Siller Vogt, The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation

Inspiration. Driving to Ground Zero, firefighter Stephen Siller found his route to the Twin Towers blocked because the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel had been closed. He left his truck, strapped 60 pounds of gear to his back and ran through the tunnel and the final blocks to the inferno. Siller lost his life later that day.

Action. In 2002 Regina Siller Vogt and Stephen Siller's other siblings organized the first Tunnel to Towers 5-kilometer benefit race in the footsteps of the 9/11 hero. "We have so many good souls who have their resting place at Ground Zero and you can feel the energy and spirit of each and every one of them," says Vogt, 61.

Tips. What started in Manhattan has spread all over the nation. This 9/11 Day, the foundation will host benefit runs in 343 cities (with the Manhattan run on Sept. 25th).

By racing in or volunteering for these events, you'll help the foundation fund its many causes: burn centers for firefighters, support for wounded veterans, aid for orphans and military children who have lost a parent.

5. Start a Chain Reaction.

Jay Parness, founder of The New York Says Thank You Foundation

Inspiration. In 2003, Jeff Parness' 5-year-old son asked if he could give his toys to a girl who, the boy had learned from a news report, lost her home in the worst wildfire in California history.

Action. Four days later, Parness, now 45, drove a rental truck packed with relief supplies from New York to San Diego. A banner on the side of the truck read, "New York Says Thanks You," Parness' way of saying that New Yorkers hadn't forgotten the outpouring of support they received from across America following 9/11.

Before long, Parness quit his job in corporate finance to organize an annual 9/11 effort that sends volunteers from New York to rebuild other communities ravaged by disaster. Now the program has evolved into what Parness calls a chain that keeps giving.

For example, his group took New York firefighters to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Then Katrina survivors helped communities hit by tornado, and so on.

Tips. Do something you love, then urge your friends to do it, too. "One of my volunteers said that this chain is never going to end," he says. "From one day of terror, we are growing a generation of kindness."

You can start your own chain through Parness' efforts. He's recruiting volunteers to organize screenings in schools of an upcoming film about the foundation. For his Stars of Hope offshoot program, he asks people to make stars painted with messages from children, a way to help brighten communities that have been hit by disaster.

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