Most of the wounded warriors who have been through Walter Reed and surrounding military institutions have heard about Help Our Military Heroes (HOMH), and many of them have been helped by them. But who are they? What do they do? Who do they help?
The idea was born on the football field at West Point Military Academy and grew over time. As described on their website, in 2006, Laurie Hollander and Marybeth Vandergrift attended a football game at West Point, where Laurie's son was a cadet. They were overcome with emotion as they watched a young Veteran be honored during half-time. They witnessed, first hand, the devastating physical, emotional and financial injuries, and they decided that they could make a difference.
The first thing Laurie and Marybeth did was to organize a fundraiser. Since both women are fitness enthusiasts, it seemed natural to hold a Spin-a-Thon at their local gym. After their initial huge success, they continued to raise funds with an annual Spin-A-Thon and donate the proceeds to various charitable organizations helping wounded soldiers.
Finally, in 2009, Ted Hollander, Laurie Hollander and Marybeth Vandergrift decided that they could do so much more. They saw a need that was not being met in a specific way, and they decided to fill the space. In December 2009, Help Our Military Heroes (HOMH) was born.
By definition, HOMH is a 501(c)(3) organization founded for the purpose of, and dedicated to, providing fully equipped, handicapped modified vehicles to our most severely wounded service members from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This is a 100% donation driven, grass roots organization that works with each individual to ensure his/her specific needs are met. Safety and comfort of the wounded service men and women is paramount in vehicle modification and delivery.
Marybeth explains their purpose “was to provide transportation and mobility for active duty service members, and veterans, whose war injuries necessitate a modified vehicle to meet their transportation needs.”
HOMH’s primary source of funding is a single, annual event. This year, the Spin-A-Thon and Day of Fitness will be held at NY Sports Clubs in Danbury, Connecticut on January 26, 2013. This is an open event and all are encouraged to attend. Whether someone wants to participate in one of the events, or just join in the fun of the day, all are welcome. There will be Spin Classes, Yoga, Pilates, Zumba, and Cross Fit, along with food and prizes! HOMH anticipates about seven recipients to be in attendance this year to help celebrate the mobility and independence they have been able to enjoy with their HOMH Van!
To sign up for the event or to get further information, go to www.helpourmilitaryheroes.org/fundraising-events
In addition to the Spin-A-Thon, HOMH occasionally receives donations, funding and grants from groups that raise money for wounded warriors and other non-profit organizations and foundations.
There are so many ways to help HOMH meet the transportation needs of wounded warriors. In addition to joining the fun at the Spin-A-Thon, monetary donations are always welcome and appreciated. In addition, HOMH is looking for assistance in identifying candidates suitable for modified vans.
Through the VA, a wounded warrior is entitled to a vehicle grant. This grant is applied to the cost of the vehicle, which is purchased by HOMH for the wounded warrior. HOMH then arranges to have any necessary vehicle modifications made. Ride-Away is one company that performs the modifications. These modifications include wheelchair access, hand controls, etc. Since no two wounded warriors experience the exact same combination of injuries, the vehicle is individually modified according to his/her own needs. The wounded warrior is neither billed for the cost of the van over the grant nor the necessary modifications. HOMH covers the additional costs. Because of this, it is imperative that the public comes out and supports them.
Derek McConnell and his fiancée, Krystina Dressler received a van courtesy of HOMH on August 14, 2012. Ride-Away performed the necessary modifications, which included wheelchair access from the side door and an adjustable front seat so that Derek could sit up front. Inasmuch as Derek does not currently drive, hand controls were not necessary. In the future, if needed, they can be added.
Krystina and Derek are very thankful to HOMH for their Dodge Grand Caravan SXT. Krystina stated, “Thanks to HOMH, the van has blessed our life. I can settle Derek, his wheelchair, and our belongings comfortably in the van with ease. We can go anywhere we want, without a hassle, and we couldn't be more blessed to have this van.”
Krystina previously drove a Nissan Altima. “If I had to get Derek in there, plus his chair, and our stuff, it would be a no go. I don't think we'd ever get out much, and if we did, then it would probably be just me to make things easier.” Krystina is only 5’1” and weighs 105 pounds soaking wet. “Having an easily accessible van gives my back a nice break.”
To find out more about either helping or applying for a vehicle, go to their website at: www.helpourmilitaryheroes.org