“They put their boots on the ground, let’s put their toes in the sand.” ~ Brandi Sue Tramazzo, Founder of Hero House Foundation
Marco Islander Brandi Sue Tramazzo started the Hero House Foundation in 2016 to do just that, to say “Thank you” to service members who risk their lives for America. Her BT Hero House Foundation offers them an enjoyable place away from home to recover and reconnect with their families when they return from the fight. Hero House provides the young families with travel expenses, housing, restaurant and food vouchers and gift certificates to local family attractions.
Brandi Tramazzo described the mission of her Foundation at the November 19th virtual meeting of the Marco Island Daughters of the American Revolution.
Tramazzo’s vision began with 9/11. She was inspired by the patriotism and heroism of Americans after the 2001 terrorist attack and wanted to honor the men and women who put their lives on the line for their country.
Tramazzo said there are many organizations that help military veterans, “but there are few that serve active-duty members and none that are is doing what we are.
“When members return from deployment in warzones,” she explained, “it’s not always ‘Home Sweet Home.’ There are many challenges reorienting to the family stateside. They often see that life has gone on without them. We help them stave off depression, suicide, divorce, melancholy. We serve the whole family, wives and children.”
First sergeants and commanders nominate the recipients based on their explementary military records, accomplishments, attitudes and sacrifices. Returning service members typically get two weeks of paid leave. However, they may not have the resources to pay for a family vacation.
Enter Hero House and Marco Island.
“We have hosted fifteen families in the past 4 years, around the extended downtime of hurricane Irma and the virus shut down this year. “
Tramazzo tells the story of one family’s visit. The father had been deployed so many times and for so long that he missed almost all his family’s important milestones, holidays, celebrations and five of his young son’s eight birthdays.
“That child was thrilled because the week they were on Marco was his birthday week. We helped them celebrate by giving the family a jet ski tour around the island.”
Tramazzo said their goal is “to buy multiple BT Hero Houses to be a year-around retreat for returning and recovering warriors, offering them and their families a week’s getaway to relax and reconnect.”
She said they recently acquired a property in Blackwater, Missouri, a historic town on the Blackwater River. “It serves military families who are based in the mid-west at Fort Leonard Wood, Air Force Base Whiteman, Scott Air Force Base and Fort Leavenworth. On Marco, the owners of The Boathouse Motel in Olde Marco, Nick and Desiree Buhelos, generously host the military families.
“But… we want to buy a house or condo here on Marco Island so we can host families at any time.”
According to board member Cindy Bixler, it costs about $2,500 to bring a family to Marco Island for a week. “Local businesses have been very supportive and, until the COVID Pandemic began, fundraising had been very encouraging.”
Tramazzo and her colleagues hope Marco Islanders will join the cause with tax–deductible donations or other offerings. “This is a feel-good foundation for the families we serve, for the volunteers and for the people who financially support us. And it’s your local Marco Island Foundation. We serve families from every state, so we think of ourselves as a national organization based right here.”
To find out more about Hero House or to donate, visit www.btherohouse.org, or call 239-394-0562.
The next DAR event is December 19 with Wreaths Across America ceremonies at the Marco Island Cemetery (Website: www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/pages/159720/Overview/).
Monthly DAR meetings are at 10:30 AM on the third Thursday of each month, followed by lunch. Members also meet casually between meetings, just for friendship and fun. Potential members and visitors from other chapters are welcome. Please contact Ellen Camm at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 317-372-1174.