Many of us are lucky enough to have that one friend whose smile stretches from ear to ear. Whose laugh always seems to reassure us that all is well. They’re the friend who you can lean on as a pillar of comfort or meet up with for a drink after a hard day at work. That friend, for many people, was Scarsdale native Peter Alderman, who died on September 11, 2001 at the age of 25 while attending a conference for his employer, Bloomberg LP, at Windows of the World restaurant on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center.
But through the Peter C. Alderman Foundation (PCAF) founded by his parents, Liz and Steve, in 2003, the spirit of their son’s capacity for love and friendship hasn’t merely lived on, but thrived. PCAF’s mission is to bring community-based mental-health care to conflict-stricken countries around the world. The organization operates clinics in Uganda, Kenya, and Cambodia, among other nations, treating individuals affected by war and also training residents to deal with trauma.
|Young revelers at last year’s Walk & Carnival.|
“Right after he died, [Peter’s parents] didn’t open the foundation right away,” recalls Tina Schweid, the PCAF’s Development Director and childhood friend of Peter. “It took all of [his friends] and all of our outreach about what he meant to us. They were shocked by the outpouring of love for Peter and they way he touched people.” And the charity’s continued proliferation, she says, is a testament to the fact that, 15 years later, “We’re all still talking about him.”
One PCAF fundraiser that holds special significance for Schweid is the Peter C. Alderman Walk & Family Carnival, which evolved out of his friends’ tradition of getting together for an intimate dinner and walk the first Sunday after every September 11. This year’s event, which has already generated nearly $50,000 in support of PCAF, takes place September 18 at Fenway Golf Club in Scarsdale. (Though Schweid has since moved to New Jersey, the Carnival always takes place in Westchester, typically attracting around 250 people.) Aside from the walk itself, there will be a dunk tank, games, face painters, and a DJ.
Local businesses like Platinum Drive Realty and Candlelight Inn (Peter’s favorite drink spot) have signed on as sponsors, and Schweid says she and her friends have even developed playful competition over who can collect the most donations, prompting her amazement that Peter’s old group can “still act like we’re 12.”
Tina Schweid and Peter Alderman in high school.
“Obviously it’s an emotional day,” she adds. “But it’s nice, because all our kids are connecting, plus Peter’s friends from college and his Bloomberg co-workers [are there].”
Later this fall, Michael Bloomberg himself will attend PCAF’s Annual Benefit in Manhattan, which is one of several other ways the organization raises funds and awareness about both Peter and its global mission. Its most poignant method of outreach is an e-newsletter that serves a platform for his closest friends to share personal anecdotes.
One such story comes to mind for Schweid, who recounts how in high school, she was the only one of her friends not dating a football player. But it was Peter who comforted her by insisting, “Don’t worry, you’re fine. They’re all idiots.”
The fact that Peter was such a “solid, stand-up, good guy” is why, Schweid says, she’s made his namesake foundation her career. “He was someone who was a supporter,” she says. “And he was my friend.”