Founder's Day celebration honors special place in life of military community

HONOLULU - The Pacific Ocean created a breathtaking backdrop for the annual Founder's Day at the Fisher House here, Sept. 26.

Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) cadets from Punahou High School kicked off the day with the presentation of colors as the National Anthem rang softly in the background. Chaplain (Capt.) Tim Wilson, Tripler Army Medical Center (TAMC), then led the crowd in prayer.

"This is a special place in the life of the military community," said Wilson. "It is so much more than lodging; it is a home to many."

In celebration of founder Zachary Fisher's birthday, the first day of the celebration honored the community and sought to raise awareness about programs and amenities available at the two Fisher houses at Tripler.

The celebration included Polynesian dancers, music, face painting, a blood drive and various information booths. Free hairstyles were provided to anyone who donated a 10-inch ponytail to "Locks of Love."

The Fisher House provides "a home away from home" that enables family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful time - during hospitalization for an illness, disease or injury. While loved ones are recovering at TAMC, family members take residence in the private and public-funded homes.

Current Fisher House resident Dale Barnes was a long way from his home in Wisconsin, but being close to his son currently recovering at TAMC was a priority.

"I couldn't have done it without the community here," said Barnes. "Everyone residing at the Fisher House comes from a different background and situation, but we all pull together and support each other and the cause."

The residents' dedication was evident as they volunteered throughout the day, cooking, decorating and handing out Fisher House pamphlets.

"It has been a great experience," said Barnes, "both living here and being able to be here for my son."

The Fisher House program is a unique private-public partnership that supports America's military members in their time of need. The program recognizes the special sacrifices of 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.

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 10,000 families, and has made available nearly 2.5 million days of lodging to family members since the program originated.

By law, there is no charge for any family to stay at a Fisher House operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Fisher House Foundation uses donations to reimburse the individual Fisher Houses operated by the Army, Navy and Air Force.

"We are a community," said Theresa Johnson, Fisher House manager. "We could not function on a daily basis without support."

Johnson explained the Fisher House brings out the best in people and creates a safe family environment to those visiting loved ones.

"I love my job and the dedicated people that live and work here," said Johnson. "It takes a community to raise a Fisher House."

Fisher House founder Zachary Fisher passed away in 1999 and was well known for his generosity that went beyond simple philanthropy.

He began the Fisher House program in 1990, dedicating more than $20 million to the construction of comfort homes for families of hospitalized military personnel.

Twenty-nine Fisher Houses now operate at 17 military bases and at five Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers throughout the nation.

For more information on the Fisher House, call 808-433-1291, ext. 28, or visit the Web site