From Realtà Mapei n° 29 - 6/17/2019

Homes, Sweet Homes

MAPEI helps wounded warriors find comfort in new smart homes

"Your valor kept us safe from danger. May this home keep you safe always. Thank you. — MAPEI"
The above quote was written by Jeff Johnson, Business Manager for MAPEI's Floor Covering Installation Systems line. "They asked me to provide a few words for a brick," he said. "I tried to think of something that could come close..." His voice trailed off as the emotion and the impact of the project become apparent.

The project in question is MAPEI’s donations in support of the Gary Sinise Foundation and its R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) program, which builds specially adapted smart homes for wounded veterans nationwide. “I’m just the lucky guy who answered the phone,” Johnson said, downplaying the fact that, since 2015, he has been the point person keeping MAPEI’s involvement alive. Along with processing requests for donated products, Johnson attends home dedication ceremonies wherever and whenever possible. It has become a project that is close to his heart.


As it happened, that initial phone call was the result of MAPEI’s involvement with the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA). “The Foundation was getting their wood flooring donated from a NWFA member who in turn recommended that they contact us for the adhesives. They knew that we would have not only adhesives, but also mortars and grouts,” Johnson explained. “I answered the phone and knew right away that this was something that MAPEI would want to participate in. It is a privilege to be able to help wounded soldiers return to a secure and rewarding life after service in the protection of our country.”


Started in 2009 by actor and veterans advocate of over 40+ years Gary Sinise and his eponymous foundation, the R.I.S.E. program constructs specially adapted smart homes for wounded veterans. The 100% mortgage-free homes are adapted to accommodate the veterans’ physical needs in order to help ease the challenges faced by these brave men and women – and their families. It is all too easy to take everyday life for granted. However, when you have to rely on a caregiver for everything – even for the smallest task – having a measure of independence provides a degree of normalcy in a life suddenly blasted apart.

When Johnson answered that first phone call in 2015, MAPEI swung into action, ensuring that whatever products were requested would be delivered to the jobsite. For that first job, MAPEI supplied mortars, grouts and adhesives for the installation of tile and stone, wood, carpet and vinyl flooring in the home of U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant (Ret.) Jason Ross of Fallbrook, CA.

Ross’ story is one of uncommon determination. After his first enlistment, he changed his focus to Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) – diffusing bombs. During his second deployment in Afghanistan, in March 2011, he was severely injured – losing both of his legs and a part of his pelvis – when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded. Since that day, he has had more than 240 surgeries, living his life in and out of hospitals. The specially adapted smart home that he received from the R.I.S.E. program is designed for his needs, as well as those of his caregiving parents and his young daughters, who all live with him. Built with tolerances designed for his power chair, the home allows Ross to be more functional, more comfortable and more independent.

Johnson was on hand when Ross and his family received the keys and the iPad to their custom-built, smart home. The brick with Johnson’s quote was placed at the base of a flagpole, along with bricks from other sponsors, including NWFA, National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

That was MAPEI’s first house with the R.I.S.E. program, but it was far from the last. Since then, MAPEI has donated products to 31 R.I.S.E. homes throughout the United States. At the most recent home dedication, on March 14, 2019, MAPEI’s support was again on display as company representatives helped to welcome United States Army Captain (Ret.) Jake Murphy to his new smart home in Flower Mound, TX.

A West Point graduate, Murphy was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, as a commissioned infantry officer and served as the executive officer for his platoon. On July 23, 2011, while on a mission in the Regional Command South area, Murphy stepped on an IED. The resulting blast cost Murphy both of his legs and caused a brain injury that put him in a monthlong coma. He was evacuated to Germany. “When you’re sent to Germany, it pretty much means you’re about to breathe your last,” Murphy said. His parents and girlfriend (now wife) Lisa immediately flew to his side only to be told he might never wake up. Murphy proved the doctors wrong, waking from his coma after four weeks to be flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center – a double amputee with the determination to live. He married Lisa, learned to walk with prosthetic legs and started a family, but he faced the challenge of living in a non-wheelchair-accessible home. Enter the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program, the customized house, and the home dedication ceremony on a sunny morning.

Although Sinise was unable to attend the event, he sent a letter that read, in part: “Special individuals like Jake Murphy willingly place themselves in harm’s way on dangerous battlefields around the world to make our lives safer here at home. I personally believe that, as citizens who benefit from the service and sacrifice of these brave heroes, serving and honoring the needs of our military service members, and their families, before, during, and after the battle, is something we can all share. We can always do more to ensure our returning warriors are welcomed back into their communities with the resources to begin a new life.”

Murphy was humble in his gratitude. “This new smart house will make life a little easier,” he said. “I can’t say enough how great this place is.”

“It is an honor and a privilege to work with the Gary Sinise Foundation, and to help soldiers like Captain Murphy and his family who have sacrificed so much in order to protect us,” said Jennifer Kramer, MAPEI Marketing Communications Manager. Kramer attended the home dedication ceremony with Kyle Murphy, MAPEI Central Area Sales Director, and Dale Penland, MAPEI Business Development Leader.

“Due to our wide and varied product lines, we are in a unique position to provide products that will help make our returning vets’ lives more comfortable,” MAPEI’s Murphy said. “This opportunity to work with our industry partners, including the NWFA, NTCA and NAHB, as well as the Gary Sinise Foundation, is a great way to support a worthwhile cause.”

MAPEI will continue to support that worthwhile cause through the donation of installation materials for additional smart homes planned for the foreseeable future. The R.I.S.E. homes are planned for sites throughout the United States, including Florida, California, Utah, Colorado, Texas and Tennessee.

Johnson summed up the program and MAPEI’s involvement: “We believe that this is a sound and effective way to support a very important cause. We are in a unique position to provide products to help our wounded heroes, and that is an opportunity that cannot be passed up. As Gary Sinise states: ‘While we can never do enough for our defenders and their loved ones, we can always do a little more’.”

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