Greenpoint Gazette
Alexis Buisson

A Big, Friendly Giant Returns

BY Alexis Buisson

Former NY Giant George Martin raises $2.7 million for 9/11 heroes during cross-country walk

Retired Giants Defensive End, George Martin, announced last week at the Beginning with Children Charter School in Williamsburg that he had raised $2.7 million to benefit Ground Zero first responders and rescue workers, concluding his “Journey for 9/11,” a cross-country walk he started in New York one year at twenty eight days ago. “I wanted to support the individuals who are heroes in our society, those who put others before themselves,” Martin said to an enthusiastic crowd of BwCCS students, staffers, and local representatives gathered in a classroom covered with maps of the USA.
Martin wanted to highlight the plight of rescue and recovery workers affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. According to an analysis by the World Trade Center Health Registry released on September 10th, 2008, 35,000 to 70,000 Manhattan residents, commuters, passersby, and rescue and recovery workers developed post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and 3,800 to 12,600 people may have developed asthma as a result of 9/11. “I feel that the first responders haven’t been treated fairly,” Martin told The Greenpoint Gazette. “My goal was to raise awareness and money.”
The $2.7 million will help victims of PTSD, chronic bronchial disease, leukemia and other cancers. Hackensack University Medical Center, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health Systems, and the Mt. Sinai Medical Center will match the sum, bringing the total amount to $5.4 million. “The economic situation is a problem but every penny counts,” Martin said. He was hoping to raise $10 million.

Martin announced his journey on September 10, 2007 at BwCCS, where he received 911 pennies from students before he started. Throughout the 3,003 mile walk, BwCCS students communicated with Martin via email and updated his location on a daily basis, from the George Washington Bridge in New York to the Golden Gate in San Francisco, which he reached on June, 21st. “The BwCCS community felt connected to George Martin,” said BwCCS principal Timothy Gembka. “A lot of our students witnessed the attacks [the Twin Towers were visible from the school]. We had to associate the children to this journey.”

Martin visited schools, fire houses, police stations and government offices in 13 states to raise money and picked up pennies found on the ground. He is believed to have lost 40 pounds.“You look at the country differently because every portion has its own character. The thing I love best is that I always had that curiosity as a child: What’s off the beaten path?” he told the New York Post in November 2007.

Upon his return at BwCCS, the 6-5 Giants Tri-Captain received a hero’s welcome. “I was excited,” Emily, a student, said. “My dad is a big Giants fans.” Jocelyn was thrilled too: “I think that what he did is great. It was a long journey but it was so nice.”

Local representatives and school officials thanked Martin and the children for joining forces in the adventure, which started when Joseph and Dr. Carol Reich, the founders of the Beginning with Children Foundation (BwCF), read an article about Martin’s project in the New York Times. “We called him, we had a meeting and we decided to support the project,” said Carol Reich, who received Martin’s walking cane and his size 14 shoes in recognition for the couple’s support. “Here’s the one man in the United States who walked every Main Street in the country,” Joseph Reich joked in his introductory speech. “George, you should run for President!”

Assemblyman Joe Lentol also praised Martin’s achievements, “the hero of the 1987 Super Bowl.” “You inspired me as a hero on the field. Nothing could inspire me more than your journey,” he said.

The trip also sought to involve children and encourage them to carry out initiatives of their own. Said Mary-Powel Thomas, director of Health and Human Services from the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, to the students: “Each time that you see a problem, I encourage you to do the same […] It won’t solve the whole problem but it will at least solve part of it.”

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