TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE — Travis Air Force Base, Fisher Foundation representatives and two regional radio talk show hosts who raised more than $1 million to help build a second Fisher House next to David Grant Medical Center broke ground on the larger 16-bedroom facility Wednesday afternoon.
“The present one has been completely full for the past four years,” said Cindy Campbell, Fisher House Foundation vice president for community relations. “We have had to turn people away and we didn’t want to do that.”
If fortune and the weather favor the project, the second Fisher House, which will be located in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient facility, will be open to receive patients and their spouses in late summer 2014, according to Maj. Kevin Schultz, the Travis Fisher House’s executive director.
The original, seven-bedroom Travis Fisher House opened in 1994 to provide a home-away-from-home to families of active-duty and retired military members and veterans undergoing treatment at David Grant.
Since then, it has served more than 3,500 guests who have come from all over Northern California and military bases throughout the Pacific. It has also been one of the few Fisher Houses where guests have been regularly treated to home-cooked meals. They have been made by Travis’ squadrons, whose members have thrown themselves into supporting the house.
During the past four years, the base has been pushing to get a second Fisher House to deal with a waiting list for the first one, which has averaged a six-week wait in the past few years.
Once approved, the success of the fundraising campaign to build it surprised the Fisher House Foundation, particularly fundraising by radio hosts Jack Armstrong and Joe Getty, who raised $1.1 million. The design and site changed a couple of times.
Travis commander Col. Corey Martin thanked all the Fisher House’s supporters, telling them Travis’ Fisher House has proven to be a place where military members needing treatment and their families “really felt they were being supported.”
“This has allowed them to recover in the comfort of home,” Martin said of the Fisher House design, which strives to make the place have as homelike an atmosphere as possible.
Gen. Michael Carns (ret.), former Air Force vice chief of staff, talked about when New York developer Zachary Fisher first approached the military, asking to write a $25,000 check for the family of any service members who lost their lives during the Gulf War.
“He then asked what else might be done and the Fisher House idea came up,” Carns said.
The new Fisher House at Travis will be the 62nd such facility built by the foundation “and this is by no means the last Fisher House,” Carns said.
Carns said that with the drawdown in Afghanistan and the recent departure from Iraq, Fisher Houses will continue to be important “because it’s really important that we keep the flame alive for our soldiers, sailors and Marines.”
“The wars may end, but not the need,” Campbell said.
Schultz pointed out that Fisher Houses do more than just give service members and their families as place to stay while being treated at David Grant. He said the healing that goes on in the Fisher House itself, with the guests supporting each other, “is incredibly powerful.”
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.