Last week I had the distinct pleasure of presenting the Key to the County award to Cole Donnellan. As you may know, the Key to the County is awarded to a person who makes a special contribution to Rockland. We have given keys in the past for acts of love, acts of kindness and acts of heroism but this key was given for selfless acts of service and leadership.
We held the ceremony at the end of the Piermont pier, a fitting place to gather before Memorial Day, next to the already built but as yet unlit Watchfire. Jerry Donnellan, former Director of our Veterans Service Agency, was the founder of the annual Watchfires which have been happening here in Rockland since 1987 and he brought his grand-nephew Cole to the Watchfires year after year.
Cole Donnellan is picking up where his great uncle Jerry Donnellan left off. Jerry was a lifelong advocate for our veterans, and Cole is continuing on with Jerry’s mission. As part of Cole’s High School Senior project, he has started a not-for-profit called Pegleg 22, named after Jerry’s former production company and paired with the number 22.
That’s the number of veterans who take their own lives everyday across our nation. Yes, you read that right … 22 combat veterans survived battle and died by their own hands after they came home to “safety”. Cole’s goal is to bring attention to and find ways to help these servicemen and women. He has started a “gofundme page” to raise money for service projects that directly help veterans in need of a hand up.
His first service project is already underway in Nyack helping a female Marine who lives in a rundown home. Cole is putting up a fence donated by Beckerle Lumber and cleaning up the yard and exterior of her home.
Projects like that are the kind of real, concrete action that truly improve the lives of our service men and women. Not only is Cole helping out, he is recruiting others and providing an example of the type of service I’ve come to expect from the Donnellan family.
We held this ceremony just before Memorial Day weekend because I could think of no better time to honor someone like Cole who is stepping up to take care of our veterans; men and women who have given so much of themselves and now need a helping hand.
Thank you, Cole Donnellan, for the work you have done already and all the help and support I know you will provide to our veterans in the future. I look forward to seeing what you do next.