Meet the Founders
On September 11, 2001, W. Knox Richardson and Michele Ritter watched in silence as the towers collapsed: one, then the other. The reporters were saying upwards of 50,000 people a day worked or visited the World Trade Center. Aloud, Richardson wondered how many people just lost their lives. Ritter asked "I wonder how many children just lost their parents." The words hung heavily in the air… they knew they had to do something.
Within hours of the first explosion, the idea for a charity to help the children was formed: it's mission to provide long-term higher education assistance and mental healthcare assistance to the children who lost parents in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Richardson, a Public Relations professional in California, recruited Dana Victoria Sophia, his PR counterpart in New York. Together, they began exchanging e-mails on a PR Internet mailing list and within 24 hours had gathered enough PR support around the nation to build an instant national publicity campaign.
Meanwhile, Ritter, a business systems and technology professional, obtained the Twin Towers Orphan Fund domain, and developed its web presence, infrastructure and primary source of communications.
A short film following Garrett Schlag
and his struggle with the loss of his dad Steven Schlag.
88 and Sunny - Short Film - from Cole Sax on Vimeo.
Well dad, here we are again. It's the absolute perfect day for skiing right now. I'm heading up to the mountain in the Passaad. I drive it every day. It's seen more than most people have. It sucks you didn't get to drive it home. I still sing to all our old favorites on the road… Drops of Jupiter never gets old.
Together, this national group of caring individuals agreed to dedicate the time and energy necessary to raise awareness for this new charitable trust fund – and to help the surviving children of parents killed in the Twin Towers disaster, in the Pentagon and on board the ill-fated airliners.
Within days, TTOF received a groundswell of support from elected officials, civic leaders, public corporations, and the charitable community across the nation. Within weeks, the Twin Towers Orphan Fund was a national grass roots campaign supported by everyday men, women and children in thousands of cities around the nation. During its first seven months, more than $4 million dollars was raised to support the children of 9/11. During this same seven months, all expenses were borne from the pockets of the dedicated co-founders and by monies donated specifically for expenses.
Today, the national coalition of PR co-founders continue to provide a vital role as "watch-dog;" and still passionately involved - and at its helm - is Ritter - the fund's Chairman and CEO.