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As if transitioning back into civilian life isn’t challenging enough for soldiers returning home, imagine the struggles faced by those who lost limbs protecting our country and our freedom. Brave soldiers who now need homes with larger, wheelchair accessible hallways and lowered countertops. Those who can no longer reach the top shelf for a glass.
When SparkleSister Joni Gommo met one of those soldiers and discovered the charity that helps them, she immediately knew she found her charity of choice. Homes for Our Troops (HFOT), a privately funded 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization provides 100 percent adaptable, 100 percent mortgage-free homes for post 9/11 soldiers who have been severely injured in the line of duty. Joni learned about Homes for Our Troops when her husband installed a generator for one of the custom homes being built in their area.
“The house recipient was a young amputee who had lost his leg in an IED explosion. My husband became friends with him and the more I heard about Homes for Our Troops, the more I fell in love with the organization and its mission.” Additionally, Joni shared that all four of her siblings were in the military, so this was her way to give back.
It wasn’t until Joni was flipping through the runDisney magazine that she realized she could turn a dare from her friend to run a half marathon into something even more special by fundraising for HFOT. She was impressed that the organization donates 90 cents of every dollar donated back into the home.
“In the process it became so much more than running a half marathon,” said Joni. “I had no idea just how drastically the dare would impact my life. Fundraising for Homes for Our Troops has been one of the most rewarding events of my life.” Cameron West, the young solider whose home Joni’s husband had worked on, was a constant focus throughout her training. “Two years ago I never thought I’d be able to be a runner,” said Joni, who had her ruptured disc repaired with an artificial cervical disc.
“Now all I can think is if those men and women can give up limbs and more for our freedom, I can run a half marathon and raise money for them. So. Much. Inspiration!”
Joni said the homes cost around $400,000 because they are so specialized, so like many charitable organizations, Homes for Our Troops attends the large races and has teams to fundraise and run. For the Wine and Dine race series, the Homes for Our Troops team raised over $150,000. One of her teammates was a wheelchair racer and recipient of a home.
Joining the SparkleFamily
Joni discovered the SparkleSisterhood about a year ago when she started running. She was at a 10k and spotted—and wanted—Freedom.
“I started with Freedom, but now I’m addicted! I’ll never run in anything else,” she said. When Joni and her husband traveled to Disney, they stopped by SSHQ where she became friends with Stacia Roundtree, another SparkleSister we’ve spotlighted. Joni said they became friends and Stacia was a big encouragement through her first half.
“There is a Sisterhood among everyone who has these skirts; it’s an instant friendship!”
The SparkleSisterhood and providing an American-made athletic product that keeps athletes comfortable and confident as they run and raise money for incredible charities like Homes for Our Troops is the heart of SparkleSkirts. You’ll inspire us and we are so thankful to have such a caring woman like Joni in our SparkleFamily.