About Our Founder
Joel Osteen International Renowned Christian Minister
Vinny’s story doesn’t begin on 9/11. It begins in 1957 in New York City as a 1st generation American, born to Mary and Vincent Forras. Along with his brothers, David and Gary, his is a seemingly normal childhood; hardworking parents, a strong sense of family values, and unwavering loyalty to people around him and his country. He graduated from Bayside High School and then Manhattan College in 1979 with a major in Teacher Preparation. Some of his jobs included life guard, ski instructor, and Martial Arts instructor. Vinny achieved the rank of Black Belt in three styles.
After graduation from college, he worked full-time at the aerospace business started by his father, and two years later, took over operations. In 1985, Vinny founded Phoenix Group, an international distributor to the defense industry. Three years later, he founded Aegis Electronics, a domestic electronics distributor. Vinny acquired and merged European high tech companies into the Phoenix Group, and in his role as Chief Executive Officer he handled liaisons through personal visits to Phoenix partners throughout Europe and Asia. He was responsible for various government projects and had personal dealings with major heads of industry worldwide including being intimately involved in working with government agencies to defend and protect our country. His day to day work continued until just after his service at Ground Zero following September 11th, 2001.
At home, Vinny has always been very active in his community and with his kids. He was a volunteer firefighter with the South Salem Fire Department. He was a baseball coach and Board Member of the Lewisboro Little League Baseball, and along with his fellow board members, was responsible for lighting The Field of Dreams in that town. Vinny was also a Board Member of the Boy Scouts of America, and active in many other programs.
Vinny’s goal was to set an example for his three children, Michael, Brittany, and Danielle, that you can’t just take, you must also give. It was successful, as all of his children have been involved in community service from very early ages. Michael dedicated himself to the love of this country through his enrollment directly after graduation from high school into the U.S. Marine Corps. Both Brittany and Danielle are currently attending college.
Vinny’s dedication and devotion to his children was the core of what was born after his Ground Zero service. Like so many others, Vinny responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center that occurred on September 11th, 2001 . He was exposed to the toxic cocktail at Ground Zero that was from both physical and mental exposure. Like the other rescuers, Vinny worked, inspired by an incredible brotherhood for as long as he could, interacting with countless agencies. Due to his exposure, he was unable to return to work at both his electronics management position, as well as his firefighting duties. Along with Monica Carrera, who he met soon after his service at Ground Zero, Vinny co-founded Gear Up Foundation after a visit to Ecuador arranged by Monica.
Through his efforts with his 9/11 service and Gear Up Foundation, Vinny has had the privilege of meeting with some very special people, including Mayor Giuliani, Tom VonEssen, Hillary and Bill Clinton, many U.S. Senators and Congressmen, and actors and actresses including Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert DeNiro, Ron Silver, Dave Letterman, Christie Brinkley and many others. He also had the honor of meeting President Bush on more than one occasion, most recently after speaking on his behalf, where he presented the President with his Ground Zero Service Medal, and the President presented him with the Presidential Challenge Coin Medal in return. One of my most special memories is marching in full dress uniform with my son, also in uniform, down 5th Avenue, leading the Columbus Day Parade soon after 9/11. We were side by side, and less than an hour later, Michael would visit Ground Zero for the first time since 9/11, and he announced to me that because of this attack on his city, he was going to become a U.S. Marine right after he graduated from high school, Vinny recalls.
Soon after 9/11, Vinny met Monica Carrera, and they married in October of 2003. Monica not only became my partner in life, but my partner and co-founder of the Gear Up Foundation. I am the proud father of three wonderful children, one son and two daughters. Michael is currently serving as a U.S. Marine deeply involved in the MSG program at our US Embassy Moscow and elsewhere, Brittany graduated college and Danielle are is currently attending college. Vinny is currently disabled due to his 9/11 service, but keeps very busy with all of his Foundation activities, and has appeared and continues to appear on television news programs. “I strive to be an icon and an inspiration for the Foundation, giving guidance and support to those who are doing their utmost to help others. My heart is totally in support of this mission, which was inspired by the brotherhood and humanity at Ground Zero. I count on those close to me to carry on with this mission of love around the world. My dream is that Gear Up Foundation continues to do great deeds in the name of those who perished on that horrible day, and that we continue to be a living tribute to all of our loved ones lost and those who continue to make the ultimate sacrifice, saving lives in their name. What better tribute can we offer?”