Tommy Brull Foundation celebrates 10 years

Honors East Northport autistic track star with Courage and Resilience Award

Martin Brull introduced Mikey Brannigan as this year’s recipient of the Tommy Brull Courage and Resilience Award and the Tommy Brull Foundation’s 10th annual fundraiser.
Martin Brull introduced Mikey Brannigan as this year’s recipient of the Tommy Brull Courage and Resilience Award and the Tommy Brull Foundation’s 10th annual fundraiser.
Sue Grieco/Herald

The Tommy Brull Foundation held its 10th annual fundraiser on Nov. 11 at Cannon’s Blackthorn, where hundreds flocked to celebrate the organization’s decade of giving back to the community.

The Rockville Centre-based organization has been dedicated to raising money for people with physical, mental and emotional challenges since 2008, when Martin Brull founded the nonprofit in memory of his brother, Tommy, who died in an accident in 1999.

“It was pretty amazing to see how many people came out and have been coming out for 10 years,” said Brull, who called the event overwhelming. “It’s amazing to see how much support we get from the community and how much it’s grown from a family-and-friends event to a full-on Rockville Centre and neighboring communities big event for everybody.”

Brull estimated that 500 people turned out for the event, which raised thousands of dollars for 10 organizations and families — one for each year the foundation has existed.

The foundation met its goal, and will donate $3,000 to the Exceptional Artist Foundation, $3,000 to the MOVE Program, and at least $1,000 to the Mary Quinn’s Mark Foundation, as well as give to other organizations that the Tommy Brull Foundation has supported in the past, like its surf program, Connor and Friends, South Side High School’s Centre Stage, the Rockville Centre Challenger Baseball League and Hoops for All.

It also plans to donate $10,000 to the families of Lauren Richardson, a 7-year-old from Long Beach who has cerebral palsy, and Tricia Pikul, 44, a Camp ANCHOR participant who suffered a traumatic brain injury years ago and is unable to speak.

This year’s Tommy Brull Courage and Resilience Award went to Mikey Brannigan, who was diagnosed with Autism at a young age.

“A friend in town who has a child with special needs told me about him, and I did some research and I was blown away by his story and what he’s accomplished,” said Brull, who took nominee recommendations from the public. “He’s a true inspiration and in my point of view, he needed to have that award.”

After Mikey, 21, joined a running club at 8 years old, his parents and his coach, Steve Cuomo, realized that he wanted to keep up with the older kids on the team. He later joined the East Northport Middle School track team, and by seventh grade, he broke the 5-minute mark for the mile.

Mikey continued to excel, and by eighth grade, he was running for the varsity high school team. He went on to break many records for the school, county, state, and even nationally. He also qualified for the World Championships and the Paralympics, and won gold medals at each event. By 19, Mikey became the 474th American to break the 4-minute mile mark, with a time of 3 minutes and 57 seconds, breaking barriers for those with Autism.

His mother, Edie, said she was happy to get to know Brull and learn about the foundation. “I feel so grateful to connect with other people who are like-minded, in that handicapped people have more ability than disability,” she told the Herald.

Today, Mikey continues to train for the Paralympics and hopes to compete in the 2024 Olympics. The most rewarding part of his successes, Edie said, has been seeing the effect he is having on others. People who have seen her son’s story, she said, will contact the family, often saying that, “My child has autism, and now I have hope.

“Not that he’ll be a gold-medal Olympian,” Edie continued, “but that my child will go to the prom, or make the high school team, or transcend the limits that have been set on these kids. What a gift it is that Mikey inspires people just to fundamentally understand that there are no limits except the ones you put on yourself.”