Specially adapted, one-of-a-kind smart homes to be constructed for two, regional catastrophically injured policemen were announced Sept. 11 at TAC Air in Chesterfield. The homes are made possible by actor/humanitarian Gary Sinise’s (“Lieutenant Dan” from the 1994 hit movie Forrest Gump) foundation and his Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment (RISE) program.
Former Rock Hill/Maplewood police officer Mathew Crosby and Arnold police officer Ryan O’Connor are the recipients.
Mathew, 39, was shot and paralyzed from the chest down in the line of duty a decade ago while responding to a domestic disturbance.
It’s common for the Sinise Foundation to finish homes that were started but get stalled due to a lack of funding. The foundation has the financial resources to cover the cost of smart homes that community efforts sometimes cannot. It typically costs $800,000 to $1.4 million to build a specially designed smart home.
Early in 2017, Kirkwood architectural firm Schaub+Srote volunteered to design a handicapped-accessible home for Mathew. Dozens of local restaurants and community members hosted fundraisers. Most of the money was used to purchase property on which to build the home in St. Charles County. Funds also were used to pour the house's foundation, but construction has not yet started on the home.
“All the money that's been raised until now is accounted for, and the project has been handled very professionally by the builder and architect that started it. Very good people with good intentions began the project,” says Jim Shubert of St. Louis, who serves on the Gary Sinise Foundation board and owns Shubert Design Furniture.
Jim says Mathew's home is expected to be complete by June 2020.
He says this foundation was the first and still is the only group to build homes for injured police officers.
Mathew learned he'd been selected by the foundation when he got a personal phone call from Gary Sinise on Sept. 2. The rental home Mathew has been living in for the past eight years isn’t equipped for his injury and mobility limitations; getting from one room to another even can be challenging.
“The doorways are all small, and some, I can’t even get through,” he says.
Ryan, the former Arnold police officer, suffered severe brain damage after being shot on duty in 2017 and will also be getting a smart home through the foundation.
Ryan received multiple awards for his admirable service with the Arnold Missouri Police Department. But, on Dec. 5, 2017, he was transporting a burglary suspect when the suspect pulled out a hidden firearm and opened fire inside of his police SUV, shooting him in the head. He was rushed to emergency surgery where a large portion of his skull was removed. Ryan spent months rehabilitating and overcame a series of infections and other setbacks.
Just two months after the shooting, Ryan was able to speak his first full sentence.
“I just gotta' get my badge,” he said, showing that his will remained intact.
Ryan’s injuries have left him with severe brain damage causing his right arm to be paralyzed. On March 30, 2018, he began to practice walking with assistance, and he is making great progress. Ryan, his wife, Barbara, and their four sons currently live in a small home that presents major challenges for Ryan’s everyday life. The foundation is providing this courageous officer and his deserving family a specially adapted smart home that will enhance his rehabilitation process.
“These are homes eight and nine that we’ve built in the 75-mile St. Louis region since 2012,” says Jim, who adds that it's the largest concentration of Gary Sinise Foundation homes in the United States.
Donations can be made at GarySiniseFoundation.org/Donate, or checks can be made payable to the Gary Sinise Foundation with a note or memo citing Mathew Crosby or Ryan O’Connor as the donation recipient. Checks should be sent to the Gary Sinise Foundation, P.O. Box 50008, Studio City, California 91614.