The Gary Sinise Foundation’s Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment (R.I.S.E.) program designs and donates specially adapted smart homes to severely wounded veterans and their families across the country. When the foundation heard about Gunnery Sergeant Guillermo Tejada’s heroism from a fellow R.I.S.E. home recipient, they decided to take action immediately.
While on foot patrol on his third tour in 3rd Battalion 5th Marines in Afghanistan, Tejada stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED), losing both of his legs and severely damaging his hip cavities. After countless surgeries and intense rehabilitation, he now lives as a double amputee in San Antonio, TX.
“Guillermo Tejada was referred to Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program by fellow specially adapted smart home recipient Travis Green,” said Judy Otter, executive director of the Gary Sinise Foundation. “Once accepted into the program, the Tejada family chose a property in the same neighborhood as the Green family! We are very excited to see this come full circle and see members of the GSF family become neighbors and support each other in their daily life.”
The main goal when designing the Tejada family’s new home was to provide Tejada with full independence by allowing him to use every inch of his home. To do so, the Gary Sinise Foundation turned to its team of dedicated partners, including Core Brands and integrator Sterling Home Technologies, to create a user-friendly smart home connected by an ELAN Entertainment and Control System.
“The involvement of Core Brands, Sterling Home Technologies, and all of our generous supporters allows us to build more homes for deserving wounded heroes and their families nationwide,” said Scott Schaeperkoetter, director of operations, R.I.S.E program. “On the Tejada project specifically, this involvement provided us the ability to include the special adaptations necessary to empower GySgt. Tejada to be able to access and utilize everything in his new home.”
Core Brands regional account manager Ashley Parkinson reached out to Sterling Home Technologies with a request to automate the smart home. In order to the make the home as comfortable as possible, Sterling Home Technologies integrated all the home’s technology—entertainment, motorized shades, security, lighting, and HVAC systems—into the ELAN system.
“My partner has a brother who is disabled from the chest down,” said Chris Edelen, owner of Sterling Home Technologies. “We designed and installed a smart home system into his home, so the Gary Sinise Foundation’s project was right in our wheelhouse. Additionally, I had been looking for ways to get involved in San Antonio, or ‘Military City USA,’ since I come from a big military family.”
“Oftentimes these wounded heroes are very limited in their current living situations due to the overall design of their home, carpeted areas that do not allow wheelchairs to move freely, appliances that aren’t accessible, and components that they cannot easily control due to their locations,” Schaeperkoetter said. “Specifically, Core Brands and Sterling Home Technologies helped mitigate this last issue by providing the components necessary to automate their new home and bring all the major systems together with the ELAN system. GySgt. Tejada can control all of these major systems with the touch of a few buttons on his iPad, smartphone, or touchscreen.”
For entertainment, the Tejada family can enjoy multiroom audio powered by an Auriel MRC-6430 controller connected to eight Niles CM7HD in-ceiling speakers, two Niles DS7fx surround speakers, and four Niles OS6.5 weatherproof outdoor cabinet speakers. To provide an extra boost of bass, a Sunfire HRS10 subwoofer was installed in the living room. Three TVs, ranging from 43 to 65 inches, were strategically placed throughout the home for comfort and convenience. Tejada’s family can now watch their favorite movies and shows on Apple TV in the living room, master bedroom, or office.
“We are happy and honored to have great organizations such as Core Brands and Sterling Home Technologies involved in the building of this specially adapted smart home for GySgt. Tejada,” Schaeperkoetter said. “They allowed us to put the emphasis on the ‘smart’ portion of their new home and truly make this home their forever home.”
Far surpassing smart home entertainment, the ELAN system controls the Vantage Lighting system, two thermostats, six IP cameras for security, and Q Motion motorized window shades with the touch of a button. To operate the system, the family can use two ELAN gTP7 in-wall touchpanels, two ELAN gHR200 remotes, or the ELAN app on their mobile devices. To protect the entire technology system from power mishaps, two Panamax MR4315-Pro power conditioners and a Furman F1500-UPS battery backup were installed into the rack.
Not only was the technology system designed specifically for Tejada, but also the home’s physical design. “Each of our projects are unique and designed specifically for the veteran and their family, so to that extent there isn’t anything that is better than another home, it is 100 percent tailored to Guillermo’s injuries and the way the entire family will use the home,” Otter said. “It is always our goal to create a home where the entire family—extended relatives and friends included—will enjoy the space for decades to come.”
To allow Tejada to move freely around the home, hard surface floors were incorporated throughout the residence. Additionally, wall outlets were placed higher in some areas of the home, special appliances were installed, unique pull-down shelves are used in the upper kitchen cabinets, and a large roll-in shower with bench seat was designed for the master bathroom.
According to Otter, the Tejada family’s home was slightly larger than other Gary Sinise Foundation projects in order to accommodate every family member. “We were able to provide an extremely comfortable environment that will truly feel like home for everyone,” she said.