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Fundraising continues for Kerns' Ararat house
J.B. Kerns (right) insists on staying active, according to his mother, Debora Bowman. Here, the retired Marine corporal is pictured with his brother, Chris Kerns, after reaching the top of Pilot Mountain. (Contributed photo)
Monday, September 3, 2012
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Construction has not yet begun on retired Marine Cpl. J.B. Kerns’ “smart home” in Ararat, but he is starting to feel at home there anyway.
“He actually goes over there swimming. They have cookouts over there and camping over there,” said his mother, Debora Bowman.
Kerns, 22, of Ararat, lost both legs and his right arm last year while he was serving in Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device exploded.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation, in partnership with the Gary Sinise Foundation, created a Building For America’s Bravest program, through which smart homes — which incorporate technology to control a number of functions — are built for severely wounded veterans to allow them to live independently.
A 30-acre site was purchased for Kerns’ log home that will overlook the Ararat River, and “he’s looking forward to the groundbreaking,” Bowman said. “He’s ready to get started.”
Catherine Christman, of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, said the wait may be over soon.
“We hope the groundbreaking can occur sometime this fall,” she said. “The community has been very supportive” in contributing to the project.
“As soon as we feel that we have reached” the amount needed to build the home, “we will move forward. We will seize the opportunity,” Christman said.
She does not know the total amount needed to build the home or the amount needed before construction could begin.
Kerns’ home, as well as other projects undertaken by the groups, are posted online at www.buildingforamericasbravest.org. For information about specific projects, scroll down the page and click on the corresponding name, Christman said.
There are different ways to donate, both of which are listed on the website, she said.
One way is by donating a specific dollar amount to the project; another is selecting from a list of items needed for the home. Regardless, donations can be earmarked specifically for the Kerns’ home or any of the projects listed, she said.
Kerns’ page shows that 21 percent of his home has been funded. Items needed for his home are arranged in a number of different categories.
For example, technology needed for Kerns’ smart home includes a Kohler digital shower control, sprinkler system (installed), lighting motion sensors, automated kitchen cabinetry, a cook lift, elevator and emergency lighting.
A drawer microwave, refrigerator, dishwasher, wall oven, cooktop range and hood, front-load washer and dryer and hot water heater are among the items listed in the appliances category.
Other categories include carpentry, concrete, ductwork for heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, electrical, painting, plumbing, roofing and siding, the website showed.
Pre-construction work also is needed at the site, as are roofing, gutters and windows.
“We are enormously grateful to all the businesses” who have helped with the project so far, Christman said of Bassett Furniture Industries, Central States Manufacturing Inc., Budget Blinds, H&S Enterprises and others.
Organizations also have “really stepped forward,” Christman said, of the Martinsville Speedway, the city of Martinsville, Piedmont Arts Association and others.
Another fundraising event, a Tunnel to Towers Run, will be held Sept. 8-9 in Roanoke, Bowman said. Information about that event also is available at the Tunnel to Towers website, she said, adding that Kerns will be among the participants.
He also will travel to New York to take part in the Sept. 30 annual run there, Bowman said. That will be Kerns’ second recent trip there because he visited Ground Zero on July 4, according to Christman and Bowman. Ground Zero is the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“J.B. was part of a military group” touring the site, Christman said. “Frankly, you could have heard a pin drop when they first went in. They all talked to me about the significance” of the site, and the impact the event had on their lives, she said.
The events of Sept. 11 were “part of the reason” her son joined the military, Bowman said.
Although Kerns “didn’t say a whole lot, you could tell he was thinking. ... It was very emotional just to be there at basically what started everything,” she added.