By Lindsay Carey, Staff Writer
Southington has been on the front lines supporting veteran and Southington High School teacher Brian Durbin in his fundraising campaign with “Dancing with Our Heroes” (DWOH).
DWOH is a dance competition where veterans are paired with professional dancers to raise money for Fisher Houses.
Durbin has already reached the $10,000 mark and is now raising his goal to $15,000.
“You have to have achievable, but high goals,” said Durbin. “If you don’t set your goals high then you’re going to be satisfied with something less and I will not accept that when it comes to the Fisher House.”
Durbin and the American Legion in Southington are holding another fundraiser on August 2 at Walmart on Queen Street and that night will take donations at the Southington Drive-in. State Representative Joe Aresimowicz will be standing outside of Walmart between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. to support the cause.
Durbin’s fiction books and some Fisher House bracelets will be available for purchase with funds going to the cause. There will also be brochures available for anyone who wants to learn more about Fisher Houses.
There are 45 Fisher Houses in the U.S., and officials are looking to build five more in the near future.
The Fisher House that the Connecticut DWOH competition supports will be built on the grounds of the West Haven VA and is expected to break ground in January 2015. It will be the first Fisher House in Connecticut.
Fisher Houses give families of ill or wounded veterans a place to stay free of charge while their veteran is being treated at a VA hospital or military facility.
“Staying in a hotel can be expensive,” said Durbin. “This charity is going to give someone a decent place to stay and whatever they need while they’re there, so that they can be with their loved one.”
Steve Pintarich, from the American Legion, said when he was overseas in 1977 he had a fellow veteran who was injured in an automobile accident. He was paralyzed and his family flew out to Germany to stay at a hotel on base. However, the family did not have much support.
“There wasn’t the friendship and the camaraderie of a Fisher House,” said Pintarich. “At a Fisher House, they are going to be with people who are in the same circumstances as them and there is a support staff that can help take care of the family’s needs.”
According to Durbin, 94 cents on the dollar of the DWOH competition go to supporting the Fisher Houses.
Between his books sales, support from Southington High School and the American Legion, and donations coming in from all over the community, Durbin has a significant lead over his competition.
“For Brian to be so far ahead is a direct reflection on Southington,” said Pintarich.
Durbin said that he is overwhelmed by the support he has received from the town and the American Legion Post 72, which he has been a member of for 16 years.
“I am in awe of the support I have received from the people and businesses from this town, its amazing,” said Durbin. “I’m very proud to be able to represent this town in a statewide contest. It’s a great charity and the people of Southington have always stepped up when there is a need.”
The Southington High School community raised $4,000 to support Durbin.
“Everyone from Principal Semmel to the kids who dropped 25 cents in, because that’s all they had,” said Durbin about his supporters. “I’ve gotten such great support from the school everyone has chipped in.”
Durbin also said the services that the Fred Astaire Dance Studios are providing are also generous. According to him, they have given over $100,000 in services to DWOH to help raise money for the cause. The Fred Astaire studios are providing 25 dance lessons to 42 veterans to support Fisher Houses.
Durbin is paired with Fred Astaire Dance instructor Amanda Meador, from the studio in Orange, and he said she wants to win for dancing.
“If I don’t win, I’m happy,” said Durbin. “That means we’ve raised a lot of money. I want all 42 veterans to give me a run for the money, because that’s what this is about. I want to dance my way to the top, I don’t want to win because I raised the most money.”
Durbin said he will begin working on getting donations from local businesses in the near future.He is working with the Southington Chamber of Commerce President Art Secondo to get a letter sent out to the members of the chamber for Fisher House donations.
“We’re hoping to get a little bit of support from the chamber of commerce,” said Durbin. “There are 600 members, if every member gave $10 we’d be up to $6,000.”