Stockings for a Cause Kicks Off for Sgt. Walker

 Stockings for a Cause Kicks Off for Sgt. Walker

By Katie McFadden

Last week, local resident Eugene Brennan returned from the Tunnel to Towers ribbon cutting for the newly renovated Maryland home of the Tan family. Brennan has gotten to know the Tans over the past year, as last year, he chose them as the honorees of the 2022 Stockings for a Cause effort. Brennan chose veteran Teddy Tan after he served for 30 years with the U.S. Navy, only to return home from his final deployment severely ill. Tan was ultimately diagnosed with an immune disorder that impacted his cerebellum, leaving him wheelchair bound and with just two years to live. Raising more than $40,000 last year, Brennan was able to gift the Tans the trip of a lifetime to Disney World in February, plus a little extra toward a college fund for Tan’s two sons. Now Brennan is hoping to make spirits bright for another veteran in need with the 2023 Stockings for a Cause.

On attending the ribbon cutting, Brennan said, “It was the first time I met Teddy. I had only met his wife, Laura, so it was really nice to see him. He mentioned Stockings for a Cause, and his wife being such a great support system. It was super special, something that you never really get to see the behind the scenes of with Tunnel to Towers and the wonderful job they do. They had an opening with the ‘Star Bangled Banner’ and ending with Teddy raising the flag to his renovated house and everyone singing ‘God Bless America.’”

After the quick trip to see how the Tans are doing, and after losing his own father six months ago, Brennan was reminded of why he continues Stockings for a Cause, which he started 12 years ago, year after year.  “One of my dad’s favorite things to tell me was ‘you’re never sorry for doing the right thing’ and that kind of stuck with me through my life. You’re never sorry for going to a wake, or over-tipping a server having a tough night, or buying a stocking for a good cause. It’s the right thing to do and it’s the right thing to honor and help these people who served our country, through this amazing community we have here. For every fundraiser, raffle, a 50/50, we always find a way to reach in our pockets in this awesome place we live in and help others.”

As tradition goes, the first stocking was hung at Park Avenue Tavern in Manhattan on Wednesday, November 22, where Brennan is managing partner. But establishments around New York City will be participating in the festive effort to raise donations for another veteran in need. For a $25 donation, patrons can have a stocking hung in their name around local places like Pico, The Wharf, Bungalow Bar, Margie’s, Happy Jack’s, the Harbor Light, Healy’s, La Sorrentina, the Belle Harbor Yacht Club (BHYC) and the Knights of Columbus in Rockaway, Sugar Bowl and Kennedy’s in Breezy Point, Adrienne’s in Broad Channel, plus other In Good Company Hospitality establishments. Santa hats will also be sold at the BHYC’s Shilelagh Law concert on Saturday, December 16, with proceeds going toward the cause.

Choosing this year’s recipient of the proceeds was a challenge. “There are so many people out there who need our help. Usually someone comes to me with a person they think should get it, but Tunnel to Towers gave me a list of 10 people who had horrific hardships. From a cop being shot eight times to an EMT being thrown out of his vehicle who’s now a paraplegic, the stories were just one worse after the next. Choosing was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to decide,” Brennan said. But with limited ability and setting on a mission to support veterans who suffered a hardship, since the initial Stockings for a Cause, Brennan decided this year’s recipient will be Sergeant Jason Walker of Oregon.

Walker served with both the U.S. Marines and U.S. Army for more than a decade. On his third deployment in 2013, as a combat engineer, Walker dismantled IEDs and cleared roads for his unit. On one of his last missions, Walker stepped on an IED, losing his left leg, suffering from severe injuries to his right leg and a traumatic brain injury. Brennan was moved by Walker’s story. “It’s similar to that movie, ‘The Hurt Locker,’ about him going ahead of his brothers and sisters and making sure it’s safe for them. It’s horrific to think that he was searching for land mines for the guys behind him and I just totally respect that. He had three tours with two branches of the military and the fact that this happened on one of his last tours just breaks your heart. I called him a week and a half ago and he’s a single father with two kids, Jake and Ryan, 16 and 10 years old,” Brennan said. Their mother was murdered in 2021.  “He’s been dealt some pretty bad cards. Seeing pictures of him and his boys in the bed with him as he recovered, with a big smile on his face, he just looks like a big happy guy,” Brennan said.

Brennan offered to send the Walker family on a Disney trip of their own, in addition to contributing to Tunnel to Towers’ effort to build Walker a smart home to make life a little easier with his injuries. “He’s super, super appreciative and Tunnel to Towers is appreciative that we’re going to help do this for his house,” Brennan said. “He got injured in 2013 and it’s 2023. That’s 10 years ago and he had to go through all of this. I’m sure he’s had help over the years but there’s so many guys that have been left to fend for themselves and people don’t realize it. Just because we’re not in the thick of war doesn’t mean there aren’t vets that need our help,” Brennan said. “We want to come to a point where we can help as many people as we can but for now, Stockings is one family, one Christmas, one cause, and it’s tangible and we’re able to see exactly where it goes.”

Brennan is hoping Stockings for a Cause is a big success this year. Stockings for a Cause is now officially a 501(c)3, is able to accept credit card donations through a GoFundMe ( and with more bars and restaurants participating, and even St. Francis de Sales Catholic Academy pitching in this year, Brennan is expecting a banner year for donations. He’s also open to other bars and restaurants participating (Contact Brennan at 917-834-8373 for info).

In the meantime, stockings are now being hung at participating bars and restaurants through the first week of January, so stop in, make a $25 donation, have a stocking hung in your name and know that this holiday season, you’ll be changing the life of a veteran in need. Be sure to follow @stockingsforacause on Instagram for updates.

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