By Judy O’Gorman Alvarez
This Friday, when the crowds gather at the new World Trade Center to honor and read the names of nearly 3,000 people who perished on Sept. 11, 2001, Kevin Parks will be elsewhere, getting ready for the commemorative gala he is chairing the next day. He’ll take time to remember his father, Bob, who died in Tower One that day. “I find it helps to keep myself distracted that day.”
Parks, 28, who works for a hedge fund and lives in New York City, was a freshman at Red Bank Catholic that day in 2001. He remembers hearing the news about the terrorist attack in the classroom with one of his best friends, Brian Morris.
Fourteen years later Parks and Morris, as well as fellow classmate Megan Swift, are members of the Junior Board of Tuesday’s Children, a nonprofit aimed at fostering longterm healing in families directly impacted by the events of Sept. 11.
The idea was to help the families, especially the children, with life. Unlike many of the charities and organizations that provided money, gift baskets and immediate support, Tuesday’s Children concentrated on developing relationships, mentoring and staying involved with the families, especially the children.
“I didn’t get involved right away with Tuesday’s Children, although I knew about them and participated in some events,” said Parks. But as he grew older and “grew up,” he said he thought about ways he could “give back.” “I felt I was ready.”
“What helped me the most – and my family – was not just the friends of the family and neighbors that helped, but also total strangers,” said Parks, who lived in Middletown, where his mother still resides. “To get that support was inspiring. It helped in the healing process by restoring our faith in the power of our community.”
A few years ago he helped form the Junior Board of Tuesday’s Children, made up of young professionals who coordinate fundraising events and volunteer opportunities. The board works to serve the needs of the 9/11 community of families and first responders and helps the new generation of families and children as they transition into adulthood.
“Now that many of the kids who were helped are growing older, we’ve shifted to offer college and career counseling and mentoring,” said Parks. The group holds seminars and workshops on college prep, internships and careers among other events.
For the past few years Parks has been paired with fellow Middletown resident Rodney Wotton, 14, whose father Rodney died on 9/11 – seven days before Rodney was born.
Star ting out slowly, Parks and Rodney have formed a friendship – attending sporting events and even visiting the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum together. “We’ve been to Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame, arcades, miniature golfing, a cooking class – and some of the best pizzerias in New York City,” Parks said. “I hope he gets as much out of the relationship as I do.”
Tuesday’s Children have joined together to volunteer with a wide array of community service initiatives, including helping with recovery efforts after Super Storm Sandy, setting up a Resiliency Center in Newtown, Connecticut, after the Sandy Hook elementary school tragedy, and assembling care packages for veterans. In addition they offer crisis counseling, workshops on life management skills, as well as Take Our Children to Work Day and holiday parties for families.
The Junior Board’s event Rise Up Downtown, a commemorative gala to benefit Tuesday’s Children on Saturday, Sept. 12 will be held at Broad Street Ballroom in New York City. Parks and his committee hope to raise more money to help fund the ever expanding goals of Tuesday’s Children.
“I’m trying to repay the debt of gratitude I owe Tuesday’s Children. I’m proud of my association with the charity and l want to help it any capacity,” said Parks. “We are here for the long-term.”
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