By Calun Reece
Running a marathon to raise money for the Fisher House Foundation is a “no brainer” for military spouse Jennifer Vedder.
She and four other military spouses from Fort Riley have joined together to be part of Team Fisher House while participating in the Marine Corps Marathon Oct. 28 in Washington.
The participants include military spouses Vedder, Niskayuna, N.Y.; Kimberly Hunter, Washington; Brenda Werner, Parkers Prairie, Minn.; Stephanie Pappal, Indiana, Pa.; and Michelle Boyle, Klamath Falls, Ore.
Team Fisher House, the grassroots fundraising program for the Fisher House Foundation, was organized in 2006 by two military spouses at Fort Riley to raise funds and create awareness for the Fisher House Foundation while participating in the marathon.
The foundation is a private-public partnership that provides military Families a “home away from home” while their Soldier is receiving medical treatment.
Soldiers and their Families often travel great distances for specialized medical care, so the foundation donates “comfort homes,” built on the grounds of major military and Veterans Affairs medical centers for Family members to be close to their loved ones during hospitalization, according to the foundation’s website.
Military Families stay in the “comfort homes” free of charge.
“My husband and I have been around long enough to know what it’s like when there isn’t a Fisher House and how hard it is on a Family to want to be with their Soldier but they can’t because of costs,” Vedder said.
Staying in a hotel and feeding everybody gets expensive, but the Fisher House gives Families a comfortable place to stay and transportation to and from the hospital, if needed, she said.
“It’s an absolute blessing,” Vedder said.
This is Vedder’s fifth year being part of Team Fisher House.
Each year the foundation sponsors a banquet the night before the race with a disabled veteran or the spouse of a disabled veteran as the guest speaker.
Vedder said she will never forget her first year listening to Col. Gregory Gadson speak the night before the race.
Gadson, garrison commander, Fort Belvoir, Va., lost both legs above the knees and loss normal use of his right arm and hand in 2007 during an improvised explosive device attack in Iraq while serving as the battalion commander for the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.
“He got up at the podium at our Fisher House banquet the night before with his prosthetics and he gave a speech that changed my entire life, and then the next day he got into his wheelchair and did the entire marathon – a year after his injury,” Vedder said.
Seeing Gadson on the course the next day gave Vedder a new perspective about overcoming pain and hardship, she said.
“You think your legs hurt, and you think, ‘I can’t go another step’… Then you see (him) coming by you,” she said. “(He) has been through more than I will ever know and yet look what he’s doing right now.”
Since her first experience with Team Fisher House, Vedder has made it her mission to tell everyone about the program and recruit others to get involved.
“I’ve been training with Jenn (Vedder), and I think running for such a worthy cause allows me to move beyond my laziness when I don’t feel like training – and also having a sense of purpose,” Hunter said.
Hunter is a first-time participant with Team Fisher House.
The reality of the need for the services the Fisher House Foundation provides hit closer to home for Hunter when her next door neighbor needed long-term hospital care. The Soldier’s Family was able to stay at a Fisher House to be closer to him.
Watching a neighbor’s Family experience a medical crisis and receive help brought it a little closer to home, she said.
“(Team Fisher House) definitely got me out of the house,” Werner said.
Werner is also a first-time participant with Team Fisher House.
“It’s so funny because I hate running. I would rather bicycle, swim – I don’t care, but I’m here for the cause so I go out,” she said. “I’m a do or die … I don’t care if I would cross that line bleeding, I would finish.”
“Hopefully not,” Hunter joked.
“But I would,” Werner said.
Funding for the event is all out-of-pocket for the ladies.
“This is a huge commitment for us,” Hunter said. “We’re not just driving down the road, we’re going all the way to (Washington), D.C., to run this marathon.”
The air fare, hotel, food and all the registration fees are covered by the individual team members, so if others could contribute we would be grateful, Werner said.
The group hosted a fundraiser at a local restaurant in Junction City to help alleviate costs and to continue to raise funds for the Fisher House Foundaiton.
“We all have kids; Kim’s (Hunter) husband is deployed, so doing this is like astronomical – all the stars must align in order for all of us to get out of here for the weekend,” Vedder said.
For more information on the local team, visit www.active.com/donate/FisherHouse2012MCM/ArmyWifeMafia. For more information about the foundation, visit www.fisherhouse.org.
By Calun Reece
1st Inf. Div. Post
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