Students seek aid for 9/11 workers


Students seek aid for 9/11 workers

Friday, December 14, 2007

By Jessica Driscoll

MONROE TWP. Since 9/11, many first-responders have had to fight for medical benefits and workman's compensation for the injuries and illnesses they suffered, and a local group of fifth-graders have joined in with them.

The students of Doris Freeman's fifth-grade class are raising awareness of the rescue workers' plight and encouraging people to contribute to their cause.

"We researched how many first responders are now suffering from lung and kidney conditions and how the government often refused to help them," said fifth-grader Gianna Massi.

"We're trying to get people to realize this and to make donations to the Feal Good Foundation so they can be helped."

The Feal Good Foundation was founded by John Feal, a supervisor in a demolition company, who was at ground zero on Sept. 12. On that day, Feal said, an 8,000-pound piece of steel crushed his foot and sent him to the hospital where he stayed for 11 weeks after being diagnosed with gangrene. He eventually lost half his foot.

"The first year after 9/11, I was depressed, maybe suicidal, and went to a lot of therapy and counseling like all 9/11 responders," Feal said.

"But I still had to fight for all my benefits."

Feal started attending support groups with responders with similar experiences and began rallying them to support each other. Two years ago, the foundation became an official non-profit organization.

"My goal was to advocate for workman's comp," Feal said.

"We weren't getting any basic benefits. It didn't make sense to me. So with that, I went and spoke in front of Congress. I've been on TV hundreds of times just spreading the message."

When Feal found out about the work of Freeman's class, he wanted to give them a personal thank-you. Unable to meet them at their demonstration on Thursday because of the weather, he will visit the children on Jan. 9.

"We want people to come over and learn about what happened, what's still happening," said fifth-grader Andrew Richman as he displayed his PowerPoint presentation to crowds arriving for Williamstown Middle School's winter concert.

"And lots of people are interested in helping."

Freeman said she got the idea for the project after hearing of a first-responder who lost his home.

"I wanted to teach them empathy and feeling for other people," said Freeman.

"Doing good for others is an important lesson to learn."

The students will present their slide shows at school functions throughout the year. They encourage people to visit the Feal Good Foundation Web site,, and make a donation.

To date this year, the Feal Good Foundation has made 102 donations to responders in need, totaling $40,000. They will host a Christmas Party on Dec. 22 to give away toys to the children of first responders who cannot afford gifts this year.