Lighting the Path Annual Gala

Hope Floats: Tower of Hope Unleashes 3rd Annual Gala Aboard Intrepid

New York City, May 13, 2009 — For Immediate Release — Five years ago, Cathy Carilli had not even heard of "service dogs." Today, she might be considered an expert.

2009 Gala at the Intrepid

Carilli is the founder of The Tower of Hope, an organization established in 2006 which is dedicated to empowering disabled veterans who suffer from injury or illness by enabling them to have expertly trained service dogs. The Tower of Hope provides the funding to train and place these dogs with individuals whose lives can be dramatically improved from their support and companionship.

Carilli knows the importance of such companionship first hand. On September 11, 2001 she tragically lost her husband Tom Sinton in the fall of the Twin Towers. Her mourning process was a long and difficult one, but the comfort of her friends and family helped keep her strong. There came a day, however, that those friends and family needed to return to their daily lives. It was the moment she thought she would be the most alone that she noticed how receptive and consoling her cats had become. The obvious reaction from her pets gave Carilli an idea.

She followed the War on Terror closely in the news and knew there was more to the story than the current combat. She thought about the veterans and soldiers' family members' struggles and wanted to help.

2009 Gala at the Intrepid

"Tommy always had dogs as a boy and I always had cats," Carilli remembers. "Together we had cats but both always understood the importance of a faithful companion, no matter the species."

That thought paired with a bit of research bred The Tower of Hope, which Carilli prayed would play a major role in helping wounded veterans have the opportunity to lead more independent lives by being paired with service dogs.

"Like most people, I was only vaguely familiar with seeing-eye dogs," she admits. "I had never even heard of a service dog and certainly had no idea it cost upwards of $20,000 to train one."

Carilli saw the potential in the program and saw her opportunity, but she needed a major idea to assist her in providing the funding. At $20,000 plus per dog, it wasn't an effort that could be accomplished $5 or $10 at a time. She decided to host a fund raising gala complete with veterans, civilians, canines and celebrities all in one place. Last evening, the third annual Lighting the Path Gala was held aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City. This year, the newly refurbished Intrepid set an appropriate and picturesque stage for an event set to pay tribute to the injured heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who have dealt courageously with their disabilities and also pay homage to their service dog partners who help them face the challenges of their lives every day.

Last evening's prestigious event, hosted by former Congressman Christopher Shays, brought together 400 supporters and raised nearly $300,000. On May 6, The Tower of Hope provided its 11th service dog. With the funds raised at last evening’s event, they will be able to keep the hope alive.

"I wanted to do something to create a legacy for Tommy," says Carilli. "After 9/11, our friends and family often couldn't help but see a plane slamming in to a tower when they thought of him. Now we have something truly positive to associate with his name. It brought back the image of his smiling face. The memory we want to maintain."