On March 17, 2019, more than 20,000 people will be running the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon. Fifteen of them will be running with the NY Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund on Team Answer the Call. They are running to raise funds and awareness for the families of fallen FDNY, NYPD, and PAPD heroes killed in the line of duty. This cause tragically hits very close to home for one of our runners.
Alison Reilly, a preschool special education teacher, is running the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon in memory of her beloved cousin, Firefighter Steven Pollard. Firefighter Pollard tragically made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty on January 6, 2019, while coming to the aid of car accident victims. He is the 1,151st member of New York’s Bravest to give his life while serving our city.
Alison remembers her cousin as always being “the first person to help somebody else out.” Given his selfless nature, no one was surprised that his dream was to follow in his father’s and older brother’s footsteps and join the New York City Fire Department. Alison recalls how happy and proud the whole family was the day Steven found out he would be starting the Fire Academy. She said it was one of the proudest days of Steven’s parents’ lives.
Although overcome with grief following Steven’s passing, Alison knew she wanted to honor her cousin in a special way. Steven devoted his life to helping others, so Alison wanted to pay tribute to her cousin by continuing his legacy of helping others. Alison decided to run the United Airlines NYC Half marathon in Steven’s memory on behalf of a charity and she immediately knew which charity she was going to pick.
Alison has been a supporter of the NY Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund for the last three years. The NY Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund, also known as Answer the Call, provides immediate and ongoing support to the families of FDNY, NYPD, and PAPD heroes killed suddenly in the line of duty. They provide a grieving family with $25,000 immediately and then, if there is a surviving spouse, they provide the spouse with an annual stipend each year for the rest of his or her life, or for as long as they have the means to do so. They also host events and programs for the families throughout the year. In 2019 alone, Answer the Call will help nearly 600 families and will distribute over $4 million.
Alison attended the charity’s galas in 2017 and 2018. She heard first-hand accounts from many families helped by the organization. In particular, she remembers hearing a woman share her story about losing her husband in a fire in the 80s. Alison was incredibly touched to learn that the organization was still helping this woman decades later and was very appreciative of the organization’s long-term commitment to the families they served.
As the wife of a New York City Firefighter and mother of two young children, the charity’s mission really resonated with her. However, Alison never thought the mission would hit so close to home. Following the tragic death of her cousin, Answer the Call was there to generously assist the family. Alison thinks her cousin would be proud of her decision to “pay it forward” to help Answer the Call provide assistance to other families who have lost a loved one in the line of duty.
To date, Alison has raised nearly $8,000 for the NY Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund. She is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support she has received in her efforts to pay tribute to her heroic cousin. To support Alison’s fundraising efforts, please click here. Regarding the race itself, this isn’t her first, but it may be the one most important to her. Alison’s competitive running history includes many 5k’s, other half marathons, and in 2011 she completed her first NYC Marathon. Her family was all there to cheer her on. Her cousin Steven was impressed with her accomplishment and said, “I can’t believe you just did that!” On March 17th, we know Steven will be watching his cousin proudly.