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Fisher House opens in Utah

Article Date: 
2 March, 2012 (All day)

A mark of progress and care for our U.S. Soldiers and Veterans again came to light as the official dedication of the Salt Lake Fisher House opened its doors Feb. 29 for the public to view in the ribbon cutting ceremony for this new facility. The Fisher House will be a huge benefit to any military and their family who have to travel a distance from the 5 states the VA hospital encompasses. (Including Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, and Idaho). 

Many state and celebrity figures came together for the grand open house of Utah’s First Fisher House. Including the Chairman and CEO of Fisher House Foundation Ken Fisher, Governor Herbert, Former TV show host Montel Williams who is also a veteran, Bob Forrester who is the president and CEO of Paul Newman’s Own Foundation, and a major contributer to charities, along with many others such as Terry Schow Executive Director of Utah Dept. of Veterans Affairs, Lavonne Liversage, Sterling Poulson (Master of Ceremonies) Steve Young, Ray Bachiller and more.

In visiting with some of the major contributers for this facility, such as Robert Forrester President and CEO of Newman’s Own Foundation, and Former Army Captain in Vietnam,  Forrester commented on how much  Paul Newman  gives back to charities, and this one was especially close to Forrester’s  heart, having served in the military himself.  “Some may donate millions of dollars,” he said, “but no donation is too small or insignificant.  Sacrifice even in little ways adds up, and means something.” 

 Newman’s Own Foundation believes that each of us, through the power of philanthropy, has the potential to make this a better world. The Foundation supports nonprofit organizations pursuing the dream of making a difference, and has helped thousands of organizations worldwide.

Ken Fisher, Chairman, and CEO of the Fisher house said, “Too often we forget the strain on the military family members when a loved one serves, and worse if they are injured or need medical attention. There are still bills to pay, children to raise, and this facility will lesson the burden on our military families to accommodate them to stay together with their loved one,  at no cost to them.” 

On visiting with some of the current military patient’s families that are currently short term staying at the  Fisher House, there could not be enough good said about this beautiful new facility which opened it’s doors in November.  “My husband had to have a heart transplant, and being that the VA works closely with the University of Utah Medical team, we were so thankful to be able to have accommodations that we didn’t’ have to come up with out of our own pockets,” said Navy wife Amy Nehlsen from Phoenix.  

A  Fisher House is a “home away from home” for families of military patients receiving receiving medical care at major military VA medical centers such as the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City.  The George E. Wahlen  VA Medical center currently takes in military patients from 470,000 square miles and services over 5 states, this is a significant addition for the patients and their families to stay for free, while their military loved one receives medical attention. 

The fisher house, is much more than a house, it provides 20 private rooms, and shared facilities for the kitchen, dining, and relaxation areas. It gives soldiers and families the opportunities to interact with one another, providing the constant support of other families going through similar circumstances.  The Salt Lake Fisher house is the first house to be dedicated in memory of a fallen soldier. Dedicated to Private First Class Chance Phelps of Dubois, Wyoming, and Clifton, Colorado who was a marine killed in action in Iraq. He was the fallen marine featured in the HBO television movie, “Taking Chance.”   

 The Fisher House program is a unique private-public partnership that supports America’s military in their time of need. The program recognizes the special sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and the hardships of military service by meeting a humanitarian need beyond that normally provided by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Because members of the military and their families are stationed worldwide and must often travel great distances for specialized medical care, Fisher House Foundation donates “comfort homes,” built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers. These homes enable family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful times - during the hospitalization for an unexpected illness, disease, or injury. 

There is at least one Fisher House at every major military medical center to assist families in need and to ensure that they are provided with the comforts of home in a supportive environment. Annually, the Fisher House program serves more than 12,000 families, and have made available over three million days of lodging to family members since the program originated in 1990. By law, there is no charge for any family to stay at a Fisher House operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs; and Fisher House Foundation uses donations to reimburse the individual Fisher Houses operated by the Army, Navy, and Air Force. 

The 16,800 square foot home was decorated with the most elaborate décor and nothing spared on furnishings, and equipment. Run The Fisher House is located on the campus of the George E. Walhen VA Medical Center at 500 Foothill Blvd. Salt Lake City. It is run mostly by volunteers and there are only 3 salaried employees. If you are looking for a way to contribute or donate money or time to Utah’s military accommodations facility for the military families, visit www.fisherhouse.org/houses/house-locations/utah/