By COURTNEY LEIVA
On Sept. 12, 2001, demolition supervisor John Feal was working with his team of Construction Demolition experts on cleanup and recovery efforts of Ground Zero. As Feal was supervising his team in cleaning up the debris, 8,000 pounds of steel came loose from a huge pile and crushed his left foot.
“I went into coherent shock; I was 120/80 like nothing happened. The guy next to me fainted and I took his belt and made a tourniquet. I really did not realize what truly happened until later that night in the hospital,” John Feal says.
After Sept. 11 2001, over 50,000 rescue workers or first responders came to help at Ground Zero, according to ABC news. Years after the attacks, rescue workers began to develop illnesses such as respiratory illness, post tramautic stress disorder, as well as cancer.
With no governmental or insurance help, John Feal decided to take a stand for other rescue workers in need. He would then create the FealGood Foundation aimed to help other rescue workers in need.
“When I was done fighting for myself, I saw a need to help others who were so far worse off than me,” Feal adds .
After spending weeks recovering in the hospital, John Feal not only had half his foot amputated but his piling medical bills from his hospital stay were getting out of control. Tired of being turned down by insurance companies, Feal decided to turn his trauma into success through the FealGood Foundation.
“The The FealGood Foundation started in 2005. It was based on my anger and disappointment. But the foundation is run on my compassion and ability not to accept no for an answer. I only wish I myself had the FealGood Foundation around for me when I was going through my own fight,” says charity founder John Feal.
“The goal/mission statement of the FGF is to leave no responder behind. And help anyone affected by 9/11/01 and its aftermath with class and dignity. To provide financial assistance, help them attain benefits, and make sure they get free counseling. We create a support system and safety net, so they do not feel they are alone,” Feal adds.
After his release from the hospital, Feel began reaching out to Congressional leaders throughout the country to help others dealing with injuries and illnesses like his own. Aside from his foot injury, Feal suffered other ailments as well.
“I was diagnosed by four doctors with PSTD, I had breathing issues, and acid reflux. I have not taken a painkiller or any medication in over 7 years. I refuse to put pills in my body,” Feal says.
The FealGood foundation would soon back the James Zadrogra Health & Compensation Act which gives benefits to ground zero workers. The bill was enacted by President Obama on January 2, 2011.
“The James Zadroga Health & Compensation Act passed Dec 22 2010. A $4.2 billion bill that will provide compensation and healthcare for 9/11 responders, volunteers and people of lower Manhattan over the next 5 years,” Feal adds.
Although many credit Feal for the passing of the bill, he credits other responders that helped fight for the cause.
“I get too much credit for the bill passing. I just simply would not take no for an answer and I believe we willed it across the finish line. But I owe it to my team of responders who believed in me and supported me for years,” Feal says.
Ten years later, the FealGood Foundation is still making a difference.
“Since 2005 we have donated over a half-million dollars and my goal is to donate 1 million. I believe we are successful because we do not change our values or mission statement. Our body of work dictates that we are a foundation that can truly make a difference.”
All charities have not paralleled Feal’s commitment to giving back as some charities for example have failed in keeping their promises.
Just in time for the 10 year anniversary of the attacks, The Associated Press investigated hundreds of 9-11 charities to see where contributions and donations have gone over the years.
For example, The Associated Press investigated the Sacred City foundation, founded by Reverend Lyndon Harris, which aimed to create a garden at the site of the World Trade Center. However, the investigation not only revealed that the garden was never built, but the foundation’s tax returns showed that the reverend himself was using the funds for personal expenses.
Similarly, Associated Press investigated the Manhattan based Urban Life Ministries charity claiming to help those first responders working on ground zero recovery efforts. The charity raised $4 million but only $670,000 appeared on the tax returns.
At the FealGood Foundation, based in New York, John Feal assures that operations are still running on a legal basis.
“While the FealGood Foundation has an open door policy to work with any organization or individual that has the best interest of 9/11 responders, there are those that give us legitimate foundations a black eye. While we do not get caught up in other foundations work ethics, we still police our own and make sure everyone operating legally.”
Still in Need
Although 10 years have passed, John Feal states that there are more responders than ever that still need assistance.
Donations can still be made to the FealGood Foundation.
“Anyone can make a donation by going to www.fealgoodfoundation.com and visit our FealGood Foundation store page and purchase our merchandise, or make a donation through Paypal, or send a check to the address provided,” Feal says.
Watch John Feal on CNN speak out about the passing of James Zadroga Health & Compensation Act.