Sotera, Geospatial Intelligence Foundation partner to help military families

The partnership was able to raise $10,000 for the Fisher House, an organization that provides military families shelter while they visit wounded loved ones.

At first the quick splashes of yellow, red, white and blue paint formed symbols of patriotism and freedom, but soon the paintings became much more than a representative of those things.

Looking to make a colorful debut at the GEOINT Symposium, Sotera Defense Solutions Inc. brought in artist Stephen Fishwick from Launch Live Art to do live painting demonstrations at the Texas show. The group eventually decided to raffle off two paintings to raise money for charity, and partnered with U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation who matched every raffle ticket sold. As a result, the two organizations jointly presented a $10,000 donation to Brian Gawne, Vice President of Operations of Fisher House, in Rockville, Md., on March 6.

A small gathering attended the check presentation in a Fisher House conference room and watched a five-minute video of Fishwick painting furiously at the event. Click here to watch Fishwick paint.

“We wanted to do something meaningful for those at the symposium,” said Lauren Peduzzi, Sotera’s director of communications, explaining to the group why Sotera chose to donate to the Fisher House. “We wanted to support the community that we are a part of,” she added.

Since the average length of stay for combat casualties is from 45 to 60 days, the Fisher House provides military families a place to live while their loved one getting care in the hospital.  Fisher House facilities are located on the grounds of every major military medical center.

In an interesting twist, the two raffle winners both had personal connections to the Fisher House. Kara Hunnicutt, who won a painting of the fallen soldier battle cross, stayed at the Fisher House in Bethesda after her son Liam was born premature. Mark Hogan, the winner a guitar adorned with a Statue of Liberty painting, stayed at the Fisher House when his friend was hospitalized with cancer. He attended the check presentation.

“This is a nice bit of symmetry that two of our winners have a connection to the Fisher House,” said Sotera CEO and President John Hillen, who is an Army veteran from Desert Storm.

Hillen, who comes from a long line of Army combat veterans dating back to the Civil War, said he could relate to the importance of having a refuge close by while a family member is experiencing a long hospital stay.

After his own father was shot in Vietnam in the 1970s, he returned in a full body cast and was hospitalized in Walter Reed Medical Center in Alexandria. “We lived in Alexandria so we lucked out,” said Hillen.

The Fisher House opened its doors in 1990 and the organization estimates that military families have saved nearly $167 million in lodging fees, subsistence costs and transportation expenses by staying at one of the homes. The average length of stay is 15 days. According to Gawne, $10 pays for a person to stay the night.

“This partnership epitomizes the type of people we serve,” said Keith Masback, president of USGIF and a veteran who served at Fort Bragg. 

Sotera also presented both Masback and Gawne with a signed painting. 

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