Jack Santoro, shown with his dad, Thomas Santoro, an NYPD cop...

Jack Santoro, shown with his dad, Thomas Santoro, an NYPD cop who died at 53 in 2019, was awarded a scholarship named after another late NYPD officer, Luis Alvarez, of Oceanside. Photo Credit: Santoro family Credit: Santoro family

Jack Santoro remembers his NYPD detective father not just as a cop but also as "Mr. Mom," caring for his boys when their mother was at work, helping out with homework, and cooking the focal point of the Thanksgiving meal.

"He would always be the one who prepared the turkey while my mom worked on the sides," Santoro, 19, of Staten Island, said of his father, Thomas, on Thursday, the family’s second Thanksgiving without him.

Thomas Santoro died at age 53 following glioblastoma and metastatic prostate cancer, illnesses connected to his work at Ground Zero following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Jack Santoro, now a sophomore studying mechanical engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, was awarded a scholarship, announced this year, in memory of another NYPD detective, Luis Alvarez, of Oceanside, who also died of cancer contracted from Ground Zero work.

Thomas Von Essen, foreground left, FDNY commissioner on Sept. 11, 2001,...

Thomas Von Essen, foreground left, FDNY commissioner on Sept. 11, 2001, at the First Responders Children's Foundation breakfast Thursday with founder Alfred Kahn and others in attendance. Credit: Newsday/Matthew Chayes

The scholarship, $25,000 for Santoro's studies, was awarded by the First Responders Children’s Foundation, which held its annual Thanksgiving breakfast Thursday.

The Alvarez scholarship was announced on Thanksgiving 2019 and is meant for children of 9/11 first responders sickened by illnesses from Ground Zero recovery work.

It’s named in memory of Alvarez, whose testimony to Congress before he died in June 2019 is credited with helping secure benefits for thousands of fellow 9/11 responders.

"Detective Alvarez spent the last few weeks of his life testifying ... to Congress pleading to extend benefits of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund," Santoro said. "During this time, my father was in hospice care, and my family watched these proceedings as the Victims Compensation Fund would impact us as well. Watching these proceedings, my father was incredibly upset as he believed that extending benefits of the fund should not have come to the point where a very sick Detective Alvarez needed to physically testify and plead for extension of the benefits."

This year, about 700 scholarships were awarded from $2,500 to $10,000, totaling $600,000, according to foundation president Jillian Crane. The scholarship is renewable for each year of school. Priority, she said, goes to children of first responders who have died or been disabled.

Tommy Wilson, of Bellport, with his dad, Thomas Wilson, an NYPD detective...

Tommy Wilson, of Bellport, with his dad, Thomas Wilson, an NYPD detective sickened at Ground Zero. Credit: Wilson Family

Two of the recipients from Long Island are Tommy Wilson, 21, of Bellport, and his brother, Ryan, 19. Their dad, also named Thomas, 53, is sick with cancer connected to his 9/11 work as an NYPD sergeant.

"Growing up, he was always fun, playing with my three little brothers and sister," Tommy Wilson said. "When he got sick, we couldn’t play with him as much."

His scholarship of $5,000 per year will help toward tuition at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, where he is in a program for students on the autism spectrum. He had a 3.8 grade-point average, his mom said. Ryan Wilson's scholarship is to Syracuse University.

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

'Why am I giving up my Friday night to listen to this?' A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

'Why am I giving up my Friday night to listen to this?' A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

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