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Foundation pays off mortgages for families of fallen first responders

Top row from left to right: Pomona Police Officer Greggory Casillas, Kern County Deputy Sheriff Phillip Campas, Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff Adam Gibson, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Harry Cohen. Bottom row from left to right: San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Dominic Vaca, San Diego Police Officer David Sisto, Los Angeles County Firefighter Specialist Tory Carlon, Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff Thomas Albanese
Tunnel to Towers Foundation
Top row from left to right: Pomona Police Officer Greggory Casillas, Kern County Deputy Sheriff Phillip Campas, Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff Adam Gibson, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Harry Cohen. Bottom row from left to right: San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Dominic Vaca, San Diego Police Officer David Sisto, Los Angeles County Firefighter Specialist Tory Carlon, Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff Thomas Albanese

A New York-based foundation announced today it has paid off the mortgages of eight fallen first responders in California, including a Riverside County sheriff's sergeant who died last year.

According to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, paying off the mortgages means the first responders' families, "who are facing the holiday season without their loved one, will always have a place to call home."

The eight California families are among 65 who will have their homes paid off between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, according to the foundation. Among the California families benefiting was that of Riverside County sheriff's Sgt. Harry Cohen, who died last year of an apparent heart attack while training with the agency's canine unit.

Sgt. Harry Cohen

"To know that the home that I shared with my amazing husband, a home we planned to retire in, a home that I feel safest in, is going to be mine without any financial worries means the world to me," Cohen's wife, Lisa, said in a statement. "That I will get to stay in this home, gives me and my daughter the most security, forever."

Also benefiting were the families of:

  • Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Thomas Albanese, who died in February when his motorcycle was struck in Lakewood during an attempted traffic stop
  • Los Angeles County Firefighter Tory Carlon, who was fatally shot by a colleague over a workplace dispute at an Agua Dulce fire station
  • Pomona police Officer Greggory Casillas, who was fatally shot in 2018
  • San Diego police Officer David Sisto, who died from a medical emergency while on duty in February
  • Kern County Deputy Sheriff Phillip Campas,  was shot and killed during a barricade at a home
  • Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff Adam Gibson who was shot and killed following a vehicle pursuit of a parolee.

Carlon's wife, Heidi, said in a statement released by the foundation, "The emotion is so overwhelming and all that I can think of is how this would make my husband feel … knowing that this foundation is taking care of us. A thank you doesn't even seem to come close to expressing our gratitude."

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was created in honor of New York firefighter Stephen Siller, who died responding to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The foundation supports first responders, veterans and their families.

The foundation this year has already paid off 135 mortgages, with the additional 65 during the holiday season bringing the year's total to 200, and the foundation's 20-year total to 450.

"This year we saw the country come together to support the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and its mission," foundation Chairman/CEO Frank Siller said in a statement. "We saw people from all walks of life join us on this quest to support our nation's first responders and military families, those heroes -- who are willing to lay down their lives for you or me -- every single day."

City News Service

Jesus Reyes

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