July 25, 2016

Partly sunny

Money raised for ‘a Ronald McDonald House for military families’

MEDINA — A Medina Veterans of Foreign Wars post and the IX Center in Cleveland teamed up this weekend to raise nearly $90,000 for a temporary home for the families of wounded soldiers being treated at Cleveland’s Veterans Affairs hospital.

Medina VFW Post 5137, 3916 Pearl Road, partnered with posts in Brunswick and Strongsville, organized the Summit Racing Equipment I-X Piston Powered Auto-Rama from March 14 to 16 at the IX Center.

Money from the event went toward the goal of building the Greater Cleveland Fisher House.

The Fisher House Foundation builds facilities where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while their relative is receiving treatment at a military hospital.

“It’s a Ronald McDonald House for military families,” Fisher House board member Rick DeChant said.

Scott Kopfstein, commander of the Medina VFW post, said “our previous commander, Jack Forster, got us involved with this.”

“We got involved with it because it’s for vets,” Kopfstein said. “It’s helping vets stay by their loved ones.”

Kopfstein said his post donated $8,000 and proceeds from a share of the admissions to the IX Center show generated about $25,000.

VFW vendors gave $5,000 and proceeds from a raffle of a custom hot rod engine, built by Box Performance of Columbia Station, raised $1,700.

The biggest single donation was a surprise $50,000 check from IX Center CEO Brad Gentille.

“That had us all dropping our jaws,” DeChant said. “All our thanks to the Medina VFW and the others and the IX Center.

“Everyone at Fisher House is just awestruck and overwhelmed by their contributions — not just the money but the effort and time.”

Kopfstein and DeChant said the event took almost half a year to plan, with participation from VFW groups, American Legion posts, Rolling Thunder motorcycle club chapters, and the Veterans Services Administration.

It included a military display on one side, featuring military vehicles that run on piston power, like a B-25 Mitchell bomber, World War II Sherman tank, Vietnam-era Jeeps, and new modern armored equipment brought by the Ohio National Guard.

The Greater Cleveland Fisher House will serve the families of veterans being treated at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.

The proposed 16,500-square-foot home will have 18 to 21 suites to accommodate up to 42 people. The cost to build the house is $7 million. The goal of the Greater Cleveland Fisher House is to raise half of the money through community fundraising. The Fisher House Foundation will provide the remaining $3.5 million.

The foundation began in the 1990s and now 62 Fisher Houses are in existence, with three overseas, with plans for 12 more including Cleveland. Ohio already has two — one at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton and one at the VA Medical center in Cincinnati.

The houses are designed to promote interaction and include open conversation areas and open kitchens, TV and game rooms.

“The key thing about Fisher House is it allows families to heal together as families,” DeChant said.

DeChant said Stokes is the second largest VA hospital in the United States, treating soldiers from all 50 states. The center is designated as a critical care step-down unit for some of the most severely injured soldiers from the army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany; Walter Reed in Washington, D.C.; and Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.

Stokes houses eight “centers of excellence” he said, including in post-traumatic stress treatment, traumatic brain injury treatment, and spinal cord injury and rehabilitation.

The center also specializes in prosthetics for soldiers with missing limbs, and partners with Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.

“You’ve got all that, and then you consider Stokes is the largest VA hospital in the nation without a Fisher House,” DeChant said. “We’re working to change that and this weekend was a huge step on the path to getting a Fisher House built in Cleveland.”

The Fisher House website shows more than $813,800 has been raised, not including this weekend’s donations.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.