Nine years ago, in the months following the September 11th attacks, the Lynch family from the Bronx, New York, made a commendable and remarkable choice. They had just lost Michael Francis Lynch: son, brother, uncle and fiancé; a firefighter who died during the rescue efforts in Tower 2. He was assigned to Engine 62, Ladder 32 in the Bronx but on September 11th he was on rotation to Engine 40, Ladder 35 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He arrived at the World Trade Center with twelve other firefighters, only one of whom survived. They were among the first to reach the scene, and television footage gave a last glimpse of Michael entering Building 4, near the south tower.
After months of hoping for a recovery of Michael’s body, the Lynches received news that it had been found in the wreckage of the second tower. In a vivid testament to Michael’s determination to protect others, his remains were interwoven with those of a woman he had been shielding. The family was in deep mourning. But, in the midst of their grief, they made the decision that they were going to help people. “We wanted to respond to evil by doing good for others,” said Michael’s father, Jack Lynch, in a recent conversation. “We thought that was the best way to honor our son and brother; it’s what he would have wanted.”
In 2002, they founded the Michael Lynch Memorial Foundation, which has become one of the most successful and enduring scholarship organizations. Each year, the foundation grants scholarships to young adults who are the children of firefighters or who lost a parent on 9/11 or in another national disaster. In only eight years, through the generosity of corporations and individual donors, the Lynch family has raised $1.6 million to provide its scholarship recipients with educational opportunities. The number of awardees increased each year, as has the amount that each student receives. This year, the foundation raised $250,000 for its twelve new recipients, and thanks to its annual dinner in March, raised $500,000 extra. As the foundation proudly stated in its press release, this allowed them to “increase the amount of the scholarship for all 42 current participants by 20% – to $24,000 per year for four years.” These generous grants allow awardees to pursue educational paths that might otherwise have been out of their reach. From nursing schools, to the Fashion Institute of Technology, to four-year universities and colleges, the scholarships support a wide range of ambitions. The goal of the foundation, as explained in the recent release, is “to provide the means to help change the world, one person at a time, by helping students of today become tomorrow’s stewards of peace and freedom.”
What’s even more striking about the Michael Lynch Memorial Foundation is that it’s largely family-run. Jack serves as the president; Michael’s sister-in-law, Lou Ann Eckert-Lynch, is in charge of the scholarship selection committee; other family members oversee the foundation’s events and financial and legal concerns. The foundation is officially recognized as a 501(c)(3) public charity, and an impressive 98% of donations go to the scholarship funds, with 2% going towards administrative fees. The family works strictly on a voluntary basis and, as Jack emphasized, they will “make sure it remains that way.” He added, “We plan to always take the higher road.”
More information on the foundation and its upcoming events can be found at www.mlynch.org.