TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE — David Grant Medical Center commander Col. Kevin Connolly was handed the keys to Travis’ second, larger Fisher House on Friday. The first family to stay there is expected to move in Monday.
“It is you who made this possible,” said Fisher House Foundation President David Coker, thanking all the Air Force and community supporters, especially the Friends of Travis Fisher House, who sustained the base’s first Fisher House for years and helped raise the money needed to get this one built.
The new 16-room house got a well-attended ribbon-cutting and housewarming with well-wishers ranging from Air Force Assistant Surgeon General Brig. Gen. Charles Potter to Medal of Honor recipient Maj. James Taylor (ret.)
“This basically doubles what the first house had,” said Lt. Col. Peter Reinhardt, David Grant’s liaison with the Fisher House here. “It will have a huge impact on the families that are in need.”
The original seven-room Fisher House was built in 1994 to provide a home-away-from-home to families of active-duty and retired military members and veterans who receive treatment at David Grant.
Since then, it has served more than 3,200 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 made by Travis’ squadrons and organizations, whose members threw themselves into supporting the house.
It has been fully occupied since 2009 mainly due to a 74 percent increase in in-patient volume at the adjacent David Grant Medical Center since 2008. That created an average six-week waiting list for people who want to stay there.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Marshall Connella from Beale Air Force Base, who has been here since April for treatment in David Grant’s hyperbaric chamber, is one of those who has benefitted from the Fisher House.
“It is phenomenal that we have something like this,” Connella said. “It is like being at home and it gets your mind off your treatment.”
The new 16-room Fisher House will relieve that pressure and will have wheelchair compatible doorways and an elevator that’s compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The push to fund a new Fisher House started two years ago. 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.
Ground was broken on the new Fisher House in November to become what is now the 64th such facility built by the foundation.
Travis commander Col. Corey Martin lauded the Fisher House as a lighthouse for military members and their families “in the dark night or stormy day of their medical need.”
Coker described the Fisher House as Fisher Foundation founders Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher’s dream of supporting the military and “helping those military families one family at a time.”
He asked those present to get involved with the Fisher House’s mission “so that you can see the dignity and majesty of our armed forces.”
Coker finished by stating that the foundation will be breaking ground for its next Fisher House at the VA Center in Milwaukee. There are 20 other locations near VA or military medical facilities where the foundation has identified the need for a Fisher House.
“Our work is not done,” Coker said of the continued need. “We are not even close.”
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.