Golfers Tee Off for Fisher House

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2007 - More than 240 golfers, including 10 injured servicemembers, hit the links at Lansdowne Golf Club in Lansdowne, Va., yesterday for the 4th Annual Fisher House Golf Classic fundraiser.

The Fisher House Foundation supports America's servicemembers and their families by meeting a humanitarian need beyond that normally provided by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, according to the organization's Web site.

The foundation also is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program that connects citizens and corporations with members of the military and their families at home and abroad.

"The first year we had a goal of raising $100,000," Jim Weiskopf, the vice president for communications of the Fisher House Foundation, said. "Yesterday it was announced before the event concluded that we had raised $583,000."

The net proceeds of this year's event are designated for the construction of a 16,800-square-foot, 21-suite Fisher House at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The facility will be one of four Level 1 polytrauma centers operated by the VA. Each is staffed to provide long-term rehabilitation to servicemembers with traumatic brain injuries.

The annual event began four years ago and has raised more than $1 million in support of the Fisher House Foundation.

For the servicemembers, the highlight of the day was a golf clinic that Ken Peck, a double amputee and former professional golfer, held for them. Peck, a golf instructor with the National Amputee Golf Association, said he was pleased to participate in the event to benefit the Fisher House Foundation and the veterans.

"I'm out here to kind of help some of the vets learn how to swing a little bit more ... and just show them that golf is a great game that you can play despite (having an amputation)," he said. "Golf is the most accessible sport. We don't have the running; we don't have the jumping; but we can still play the game when we stabilize ourselves and swing and hit."

Army Staff Sgt. John Shannon, a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Here, was just as excited to get back to the sport he loved as Peck was to be mentoring him. The former sniper suffered a traumatic brain injury and the loss of his left eye while serving in Iraq.

"(This is) giving me an opportunity to do something I used to be pretty good at and see if I can get it back a little bit," Shannon said. "It's just a tremendous amount of fun. I don't know how to say thank you to the people that have us out here, but it's a wonderful opportunity to come out here."

Though he hasn't played golf in four years, he said it's just a matter of rediscovering his swing. Focusing on that keeps him from focusing on other -- not so pleasant -- things, he said.

"It certainly makes you forget everything else you're dealing with, which is what it's about," Shannon said.

(Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Molly Burgess of American Forces Press Service contributed to this report.)

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