By John Parrott
A home-away-from home for the families of wounded military personnel is in the works for Okaloosa County.
A Fisher House is under construction on Eglin Air Force Base, and is due to open in late summer 2011, according to Julie Thompson, executive director of the Fisher House of the Emerald Coast.
The Eglin facility will serve a multipurpose role. Not only will it benefit the families of the men and women stationed at Eglin and Hurlburt Field, it will be an added benefit to the US Army’s 7th Special Forces who are scheduled to start arriving about the time the Fisher House is completed.
In fact, that was one of the deciding factors that brought the Fisher House to Eglin, Thompson said.
“And what is more important, the nearest Fisher House now is at Biloxi, Mississippi,” she added.
Fisher Houses are essentially homes-away-from home for families of wounded soldiers, sailors and airmen undergoing treatment. They are purposely built near, or adjoining to, military and veterans medical facilities.
The facility has been drawing support from the local community.
BAE Aviation’s Crestview facilities recently held what it hopes will be the first of many poker runs in support of the Fisher House of the Emerald Coast, and, according to company spokesperson Susanne Taylor, it was a huge success despite the near freezing weather conditions.
The cold weather had an obvious dampening effect on the number of riders willing to brave the 60-mile circuit. Of the 40 signed up, only 12 made the ride.
“It was a good ride though,” said biker and BAE Aviation employee John Dunn, who made the run with his wife, Cindy. “It would have been nicer if it was in the summertime or 30 degrees warmer.”
Despite the lack of riders, BAE Aviation made a sizable donation to the Fisher House of the Emerald Coast.
“We took in about $500 in participation fees, and the company is matching our funds, so we’ll be turning over $1,000 to the Fisher House,” said Taylor, who organized the poker run.
Despite the chilly conditions, everyone associated with the ride knew of its importance and gladly donated their time and effort, Taylor said.
“When we were looking for something to support locally, I thought of the Fisher House of the Emerald Coast because it helps military families here in our immediate area,” said Taylor, who is a motorcycle rider with a son in the military. “Then too, we work very closely with the military so, as far as I was concerned, it was a good fit.
“Our hope is next year we will turn this into a public event, and hopefully the weather will be a little more cooperative, and we’ll be able to donate even more to Fisher House.”
The first Fisher House was built in 1990, in Bethesda Maryland. Today, there are more than 43 Fisher Houses located on military installations and near veterans’ hospitals throughout the U.S., plus two at American military bases in Germany. The Fisher House Foundation plans to increase the number of facilities to 60 including the one being built on Eglin.
There are no out of pocket expenses for those who stay at Fisher House facilities.
“They did a cost estimate and came up with a $10 a night per person average, but that cost is offset by the Fisher House, which reimburses the facility that runs the house, so there is never any expense to the family member,” said Thompson.
The foundation also has an allied program known as “Hero Miles,” which is administered by the Fisher House Foundation. It works directly with major airlines and uses frequent flyer miles donated by the public to transport needy military families back and forth to their recuperating loved ones.
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