N.Y. Businessman Provides High-flying Gift

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2007 - A New York State-based business owner made a seven-figure donation in frequent-flyer miles to the Fisher House Foundation as part of a Memorial Day-weekend promotion sponsored by CNN, a Fisher House official reported.

Advertising and public relations executive Eric Mower donated 1 million frequent flyer miles that he'd accumulated during business travel with Delta Airlines over the past few years, said Pam Lea-Maida, program manager for Fisher House's "Hero Miles" program at the organization's headquarters in Rockville, Md.

Air mileage donated as part of the program is used to provide transportation for family members when they visit hospitalized servicemembers recovering from injuries suffered in Afghanistan or Iraq, Lea-Maida said. The donated miles also are used to transport injured servicemembers from military medical centers when visiting relatives while on convalescent leave, she added.

Fisher House has administered its "Hero Miles" program in partnership with the Defense Department since 2003, Lea-Maida said. Since then, the organization has provided more than 10,000 cost-free airline tickets to servicemembers and their families, which translates to a savings of more than $12 million.

Fisher House asked to participate in CNN's Memorial Day promotion, Lea-Maida said.

"We do have partnerships with each of the major airlines," Lea-Maida said, noting Fisher House books travel worth between 3.5 and 4 million frequent flyer miles daily for servicemembers' relatives.

Mower's donation to Fisher House is "unbelievably generous" and much appreciated, Lea-Maida said, noting that Delta Airlines matched Mower's contribution.

"I saw the CNN promotional messages, and I decided that's a good idea," Mower said about his Fisher House donation today during a phone interview from his company's principal office in Syracuse, N.Y. "I was sitting on a lot of miles that I hadn't used."

Mower said he watches daily television coverage of U.S. servicemembers' efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"You have to be brain-dead not to want to think about what these people are sacrificing" for the United States, Mower said. "So, it's not an overstatement to say that I think about them every day."

Mower said he is just "one citizen, doing very little" to support the troops "in comparison to what they are doing."

Any organization like Fisher House that supports servicemembers and their families "is a good organization, as far as I'm concerned," Mower said.

Since 1990, the nonprofit Fisher House organization also has served the nation by providing no-cost accommodations at military bases for relatives visiting ill or injured servicemembers. The comfort homes are built by Fisher House and then provided as gifts to the military services and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Fisher House is a member of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which spotlights and facilitates citizens' support for servicemembers and their families and communicates that support to servicemembers at home and abroad.

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