By Karen Jowers | Navy Times | NavyTimes.com | June 21, 2012
Since 2004, volunteers with the Semper Fi Fund have been in the trenches with critically injured Marines, providing funds and programs to help them make the fullest recovery possible.
And in those trenches, alongside those hospitalized Marines, the volunteers have seen soldiers, sailors, airmen and Coast Guard members who also had heart-wrenching needs. But the nonprofit Semper Fi Fund's mission was to help Marines and troops injured while assigned to a Marine unit.
Now, the Semper Fi Fund has expanded to help other critically injured service members through a separate program, America's Fund. For now, it will be limited to troops in intensive care units, said Karen Guenther, president, chief executive officer and founder of Semper Fi Fund.
America’s Fund provides grants that enable families to spend time at a loved one’s bedside. "They’re often on leave without pay. We help pay their bills back home while they're at the bedside," Guenther said.
The first family to be helped was that of Army Spc. Andrew Smith, who lost his legs and suffered major internal injuries in a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan earlier this year.
His wife, Tori, is a law student at Michigan State University, and his family is from Tennessee. America's Fund provided money for travel the day after Smith arrived at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda, Md., and continued to help with mounting costs. The fund also gave him an iPad to help him communicate.
Since March, America’s Fund has helped 11 soldiers.
"Our dream is to get enough funding so that we can help in the other ways that Semper Fi Fund has helped," Guenther said.
They hope to provide adaptive equipment, housing and transportation, and to start more programs to help the wounded and those with post-traumatic stress.
Families make the connection with America’s Fund or Semper Fi Fund through referrals in hospitals by medical personnel, or through military units.
Those who have donated to the Semper Fi Fund can be assured that their funds will still go to Marines and those who serve with Marines.
America's Fund is a separate, self-funded program that will operate under the existing 501(c)(3) nonprofit status of the Semper Fi Fund – a fund with a proven track record, including the highest ratings from Charity Navigator and the American Institute of Philanthropy.
"That helps other services feel comfortable when we walk through the door," Guenther said. "Even our Marine families have asked us to help their brother soldiers, sailors, Coast Guard members and airmen. When they’re in treatment, they’re all brothers and sisters."