By TIM ROWDEN
House Springs, MO – U.S. Army veteran, Specialist Chris Sanna was left paralyzed after being shot while leaving a St. Louis Cardinals game in September 2015. He was celebrating his mother’s 60th birthday. That evening he left the game early to ensure he’d get home and have a good night’s sleep before reporting to his job early the next morning.
Due to his recovery and rehab, Sanna was unable to go home or report to work since that fateful night.
With the help of local Labor unions and the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) program, Sanna returned home Jan. 18 for the first time since his injuries to a completely remodeled wheelchair accessible home. With family and volunteers in attendance, Sanna received a standing ovation.
“You made it better, a lot better,” he said. “Thank you. Thank you.”
Kilwa Jones, 31, has been charged with two counts of first-degree assault, four counts of armed criminal action and two counts of first-degree robbery in connection with Sanna's shooting.
Sanna, who hopes to return to work soon, is still a little surprised by how many people came to his aid following the life-altering event.
“They’ve given me the opportunity to live life like my legs did work,” Sanna said.
‘EAGER TO HELP’
Participating unions included Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, Laborers Local 110, Tile, Marble and Terrazzo Local 18 and St. Louis Fire Fighters Local 73.
Local 562 plumbers worked on the house three different Saturdays in December and January, changing the plumbing to make it handicap accessible. The members who worked on the house were journeyman Tom Gardner, Joe Dressel, Judy Dressel, Kevin Eichhorn, Joe Acinelli Sr. and apprentices Luke McClimens, Joe Beetz, Konner Krebeck, Tony Acinelli.
Local 562 Recording Secretary and instructor Marty McClimens coordinated the volunteers.
“Any service member or veteran that suffers a disabling attack is a tragedy, but when it happened on the street in our city, it magnifies that tragedy,” McClimens said. “Local 562 and our members were eager to help out in any way they could.”
Local 18 Tile, Marble and Terrazzo workers and finishers and R&F Tile provided tile and finishing work some of their other expertise to the project.
Local 18 members who worked on the project included Stoyan Hristov, Kevin Robbins, Fahir Kopic and Victor Leinger.
“Every veteran is a hero in our book,” Local 18 President Mike Weber said. “We were honored to be able to work on this project and give Specialist Sanna a home to meet his needs.”
Laborers Local 110 Business Agent Kurt Wheeling helped with cleanup and some minor demolition work along with TCS (formerly Titan) construction cleanup service.
Through the combined efforts of all the union volunteers, The Home Depot Foundation, Benjamin Moore, Shubert Design Furniture, GE, National Wood Flooring Association and dozens of donors, construction contractors, vendors and volunteers, they were able to transform Sanna’s house to make it wheelchair accessible.
In addition to the dozens of dedicated volunteers and tradesmen who donated their time on this project, the following companies donated their efforts as well: AAA Zollner Materials, Advanced Roll-Off Services, Aladdin Insulation, Allwood Flooring, Ambassador Floors, Chesterfield Fence & Deck, Chiodini Architects, Custom Design Fence & Deck, Drywall Pros, E.F. Gardner Plumbing Company, LLC, Floridatile, Gladiator Cabinets, JD’s Flooring, Jerry’s Fine Floors, Harmar, Hotwire Electric, Jim and Linda Shubert Foundation, Just Around the Corner, JW Hardwood Floors, Mister Fixit, MAPEI, MC Industrial, Palestine Landscape, Premier Painting, R.L. Oehm Concrete, Sheoga Hardwood Flooring, The QuickCrete Companies, Therapeutic Specialties, Inc., Titan Cleaning, True Carpenter Construction, United Granite and Village Green Construction.
The simple tasks of everyday life – climbing stairs, reaching a high shelf, driving to the grocery store – are easy to take for granted. Because they’re done without a second thought, it’s impossible to imagine an inability to perform them. But that’s often the reality for wounded, ill and injured service members, where basic tasks are impossible obstacles and the enduring ambition is to achieve a semblance of normalcy.
Under its R.I.S.E. program, the Gary Sinise Foundation is modifying homes for injured veterans, their caregivers and family. A retrofitted house allows them to regain mobility which is essential to their long- term success and ability to move forward with their lives.
Each one-of-a-kind home is customized to ease the everyday burdens of a wounded hero, their family and caregivers.
The program also provides home modifications, adapted vehicles and mobility devices. Other programs include Relief & Resiliency Outreach, Invincible Spirit Festivals, the Lt. Dan Band, Arts & Entertainment Outreach, Serving Heroes, and First Responders Outreach. Its latest program, Soaring Valor, is sending WWII veterans to The National WWII Museum and documenting their first-hand accounts of the war. For more information, visit GarySiniseFoundation.org.