Contact: Peter Kwiath, EMT-P
The NYP/Queens FreeMAT (Freedom Medical Aid Team) was founded in 2002 by NewYork-Presbyterian/Queens EMS Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics as a post-9/11 medical assistance team in support of US Army personnel being deployed to the Middle East. The original organizers were Peter Kwiath, EMT-P, Marvin Bethea EMT-P, (retired) and several other paramedics.
In order to develop the team, Mr. Kwiath met with Lieutenant Colonel Zoller at Fort Totten, the base of the Army’s 77th Regional Readiness Command Headquarters office to determine how NewYork-Presbyterian/Queens could offer assistance. The FreeMAT organization was established to support the troops being deployed from Fort Totten with supplies, including much needed personal items such as socks, razors, soap, and other toiletries.
The first community drive for supplies to send to the troops was held in the spring of 2002. State Senator Peter Padavan assisted with the first fund drive and has remained a continuous FreeMAT supporter and participant ever since. Based on the success of the first drive, Mr. Kwiath met with the administration of NewYork-Presbyterian/Queens and was successful in obtaining additional funding and support from the hospital's President and CEO Stephen S. Mills and the senior management team.
Colonel Margrit Farmer and Major General Richard Colt, Commanding General for the Northeast United States Corridor, the senior command personnel at Fort Totten, expressed extreme gratitude to the NYP/Queens FreeMAT team. Maj. Gen. Colt had all the items boxed and shipped via the military network directly to the soldiers overseas. FreeMAT soon began to support family-attended deployment farewell functions.
Several drives for toiletries were organized by FreeMAT over the following 18 months, and the organization wanted to do more to support the soldiers and their families. Together with Maj. Gen. Colt, Mr. Kwiath established the concept for the FreeMAT Toy Drive for the children of deployed military personnel who were left without one or both parents during the holiday season.
The first FreeMAT toy drive was conducted in December 2003 with the help of then-City Councilman, John Liu, who helped increase community awareness and support for the toy drive. After the first drive, Major General Colt was presented with 300 collected toys.
Since December 2003, FreeMAT continues to have an annual toy drive for the families of deployed troops. In that time, FreeMAT has collected more than 9,000 toys for the children of members of the US Armed Forces from Fort Totten and associated NYC military units.
2004. In 2004, Councilman John Liu first held a press conference at his district office announcing the community toy drive effort. George Benedetto, EMT-P, Director of the NYP/Queens Patient Simulation Center, joined in as co-director of FreeMAT.
2005. Major General William Terpeluk attended the toy donation event at Fort Totten for Christmas in 2005. Recognizing the generosity of NYP/Queens FreeMAT, the 77th Regional Readiness Command became a blood donation site for our hospital’s Blood Donor Center. Hundreds of units of much-needed blood have since been donated through the generosity of our military.
FreeMAT wishes to sincerely acknowledge the generosity of many donors, partners, and friends who remain vital in accomplishing its mission: