Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Answer the call to help the loved ones of New York's fallen heroes

Wednesday is the Mets' 31st Annual New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund Game and Family Day at Citi Field for over 800 loved ones of fallen NYPD, FDNY and Port Authority heroes. I am privileged to have the opportunity to cover this event. It means a lot to me.

This annual gathering, which features a pre-game barbecue and picnic with Mets alumni in attendance, was started by Mets legend (and Squawker Jon favorite) Rusty Staub in 1985. So it is not just Harvey Day; it is Hero Day.

Some of the children of the fallen NYC heroes will be throwing out the first pitch Wednesday night:

  • Gabriella and Giovanna Ambelas, daughters of FDNY Lt. Gordon “Matt” Ambelas of Ladder 119, who was killed in the line of duty in July 2014. You may remember that the Ambelas family lives in my neighborhood, and that my running club friend Margaret was the person who introduced Lt. Ambelas to his wife Nanette.
  • Justin Navas, son of PAPD Officer Joseph Navas, who was killed on 9/11
  • Amanda Rivera, daughter of NYPD Officer William Rivera, who was killed in the line of duty in 2004.
This picture is from last year.
Other fallen first responder family members who will be at the event include the widow and parents of NYPD Detective Wenjian Liu, as well as the parents of NYPD Officer Michael Williams. Top FDNY, NYPD and PAPD officials will also be in attendance.

The New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund was founded in 1985 by Rusty Staub, and the charity has distributed an incredible amount of financial assistance to fallen heroes’ family members -- $130 million, to be exact. In addition, the fund also provides a support network for the families.

And Mr. Met will be there, of course!
I talked to Lauren Profeta, Associate Director of Development of the New York Police & Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund, about the event. She said that about 600 families are served by the fund.

Profeta says that Wednesday’s pre-game picnic, held in the bullpen area plaza of Citi Field, will feature food, candy, ice cream, free raffles and giveaways, face painting, a clown/magician, and the chance for the families to get autographs from both past and current Mets.

The families of the fallen heroes get to attend the event for free, of course. The Benefit Fund also sells tickets to be a part of the day. (Click here to attend.) Fans who buy tickets that way can attend the pre-game picnic. Profeta says that proceeds raised by ticket sales and fundraising go to fund the event, as well as raising money toward the annual stipends the families get each fall. “Last year alone, we distributed over $2 million in stipends to the families of our fallen first responders,” she notes.

These family members deserve to be honored this way. As most of you know, my father was a police officer for over 30 years in our hometown of Passaic, NJ. I wrote last week about my varied emotions about the closing of St. Clare’s, my old school and family church, and the place where my father’s funeral was held. But fortunately, I had my father alive and sentient for the first 30+ years of my life. I cannot even think to imagine what is like to lose a parent or husband or wife or child or sibling in the line of duty, the way these families have. Thank goodness that this organization exists, and provides meaningful assistance to these families for the rest of their lives.

For more information about this night, you can visit to donate and to learn more about the organization.  You can also follow them on Facebook (, Twitter (@answerthecall), and Instagram (@answerthecallnyc)

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