First Responders Honored With Heritage School’s Builders Club 9/11 ‘Never Forget Walk’

PHOTO: Todd Anton

Inspired by the Tunnel To Towers Foundation's "Never Forget Walk," students from the Heritage Builders Club raised $3,300 for the organizations in their own Never Forget Walk event.

The Heritage School’s Builders Club students partnered with the Tri-Community Kiwanis Club to host an amazing 9/11 Ceremony at The Heritage School in Phelan. The Heritage Builders Club should be familiar to many. This is the club that hosts, along with Tri-Community Kiwanis Club, the annual veteran’s dinner tributes for over 27 years. Led by teacher and advisor Todd Anton, and in partnership with the Tri-Community Kiwanis Club, Anton has taught many students that the real incredible beauty of America is that we are part of something larger than ourselves and that our true greatness rests in our service to each other, our community, and the nation. The message of Kiwanis, under the leadership of Kiwanis President Carol Smith and its student programs like Builders Club Anton, says, “Is simply loving our neighbor as ourselves.” Such values achieved terrific results. Heritage partnered with the charity the “Tunnels to Towers Foundation” and held their ceremony.

Students at Heritage School honor first responders at 9/11 ceremony and walk (credit: Carol Smith)

Inspired by Tunnels to Towers founder Frank Siller’s unique Never Forget Walk in honor of his firefighter brother lost in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Heritage hosted its similar program. Anton and Kiwanis wanted a program not of speeches but of actions in the service of others. As a result, Heritage did its own 9/11 school-wide Ceremony replicating Siller’s walk and was joined by first-responders who were either former students of Mr. Anton or who work with him at Heritage. Staff Sergeant and 6th grade Heritage Teacher Sylvia Otsuka of the Cal Guard represented our Military, Mr. Tony DiGiorgio, a Los Angeles firefighter from LAX, represented those lost on 9/11, Jillian Beadersly-Miller is an RN, and an ICU Nurse at St. Marys stood up for those amazing servants in the medical field, and Snowline Police was proudly represented by Chris Burns who stood up for our law enforcement. Each first-responder led each group of students on the “Never Forget Walk,” which included; Pre-Kindergarten through 8th grade. It was simple. It was beautiful.  Additionally, Anton’s students over the years have also built their own 9/11 memorial at Heritage School. 

9/11 Memorial at Heritage School (credit: Carol Smith)

 Students learned what NYFD Stephen Siller did on the morning of September 11, 2001, for his city and his country. Being nearly 5 miles away on the morning of September 11 in nearby Brooklyn, Stephen Siller tried as hard as he could to get over to Manhattan and the WTC. Seeing traffic at a standstill, he loaded up his gear on his body, suited up, and ran the entire five-mile span of the Brooklyn Tunnel, which empties near the doomed World Trade Centers, and went to work saving lives and, in the end, sacrificing his. At the conclusion of the 45-minute program and walk, over $3,300 had been raised to serve those who serve us! Wearing t-shirts that proclaimed “freedom is not free, along with students dressed patriotically, Heritage students brought in donations to the Tunnels to Towers Foundation. Amazing!

First responders prepare to walk with students (credit: Carol Smith)

Jason DiBiasi, Manager of Philanthropy for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, and others in the organization were very appreciative. “Mr. Anton. It’s amazing to see schools like yours coming together and never forgetting 9-11-01. My heart is filled with joy when looking at those pictures of all those kids participating and learning! And just WOW for the over $3,300 in donations. That’s absolutely amazing. It’s inspiring to us when children are leading the way. You must live in a very special community.”

Students walking around the Heritage campus with their first responder (credit: Carol Smith)

Anton’s fondest hope is to get partner schools nationally to join together with him every 9/11, and we can bring the concept of unity and community to each and every student and every school! Indeed, as the motto of Tunnels to Towers says: “Let’s do good!”

First Responders and school officials standing for a photo op (credit: Carol Smith)

Anton is bringing a big group of students to NYC in June of 2022 for their school trip, and Tunnel to Towers will meet with the students at Ground Zero and say a proper ‘New York’ thank you!

If you wish to know more about Tunnels to Towers, please visit

Or watch this fantastic YouTube feature on this amazing charity:

(credit: Carol Smith)
(credit: Carol Smith)

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