YMCA aims to raise $20M for Wounded Warrior Center in Fayetteville

By SARAH CAMPBELL | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: April 2, 2014

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — The YMCA of the Sandhills will launch a capital campaign in July to raise $20 million for a military-focused building project.

The 110,000-square-foot facility, billed as the Wounded Warrior Center: A Living Monument, will be part museum, part recreation and rehabilitation center.

Rick Houp, CEO of the YMCA, said the stories of injured soldiers will be told through plaques lining the walls and video testimonials streamed in a theater.

"The goal is not to forget the wounded warrior as a valued member of the community," he said. "These are people who are going to be living with scars and memories for the rest of their lives."

The facility, the first of its kind in the country, will act as a multi-use wellness center.

"Wounded warriors are often isolated in hospitals and care centers because of their need for specialized equipment," Houp said. "We want to blend that specialized equipment with traditional equipment so that wounded warriors can work out right beside regular community members."

The goal is to complete the structure by the end of 2018, Houp said.

"If this is a success, which we think it will be, we want to see it duplicated across the country," Houp said.

The center will have three indoor pools, including one for therapy, one for recreation and a 10-lane competition-style pool with seating for 500 people.

"Our hope is that both the school system and community swim teams would utilize the facility," Houp said. "There is no one else in our community who can build an aquatic center like this. We've tried it with bond programs and they've met some resistance."

The building also will feature a child-care center along with three group exercise and therapy rooms.

Office space and community meeting rooms will make up about 30,000 square feet of the structure.

"We'd like the agencies who work with the wounded warriors to have a presence in this facility," Houp said. "The goal is to develop a one-stop shop."

Usage of the facility will be free to injured soldiers. Community members can take advantage of the center by joining the YMCA. Those membership fees will be used to cover the center's annual operating expenses.

The location of the facility has yet to be determined, but a consulting firm will come up with several options.

Houp said possible options include the area near Cross Creek Mall, Raeford Road and the Interstate 295 corridor.

"It is critical that we find the best possible site for access and a location that will drive community use and membership," Houp said.

Houp said the YMCA is currently in the process of securing nonprofit status for the facility.

The goal of the capital campaign, which is expected to span three years, is to raise at least $10 million locally with the remaining dollars coming from donors and organizations across the country.

"It is our hope that people recognize this as a true asset to the community," Houp said.

Houp's team started gathering support for the project in September and already have a few major contributors lined up, he said.

"We've talked to congressmen and senators, representatives from the Department of Defense, leaders at Fort Bragg and community leaders," he said. "It's been well received by all of them."

The center will serve as a beacon of hope to those soldiers who no longer need physical rehabilitation, but seek emotional support, Houp said.

"We want them to stay here because they will have that support system," he said. "We want this center to become a destination."


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