Veteran given new home, raises $100,000 to return the favor

Thursday, June 24, 2010 | 7:19 p.m. CDT; updated 11:38 a.m. CDT, Friday, June 25, 2010
In three days, Homes for Our Troops volunteers took Army Sgt. Robert Canine's house from a slab of concrete to a house with a roof and garage door.

COLUMBIA — The house at 5002 Laredo Trail is almost complete.

The one-story ranch looks like many others in Thornbrook — the combination of siding and rock fits in with the neighborhood’s decor. Inside, the design was chosen to accommodate wheelchair use with features including an open floor plan, wide doorways and a handicap-accessible bathroom with a roll-in shower.

Quick facts about Homes for Our Troops

Homes for Our Troops is a nonprofit organization that builds and occasionally renovates specially adapted houses for veterans. Sponsors raise funds to build the house, local and national businesses donate building supplies and professionals and volunteers donate their time and expertise toward construction. The program assists the most severely injured men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. It reported the completion of  55 houses since its founding in 2004. Homes for Our Troops has 28 projects in progress.


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This week, volunteers finished odd jobs around the house — touching up paint and installing the last of electrical and plumbing. From 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, volunteers are scheduled to clean up before the new residents arrive.

At 11 a.m. Saturday, Homes for Our Troops and Beacon Street Construction of Columbia will turn over the keys to Army Staff Sgt. Robert Canine, his wife, Jennifer, and son, Sebastian.

Before Canine, 30, would even move into his new home, he raised more than $100,000 that would allow Home for Our Troops to build a house for another veteran with severe injuries from war in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“I was shocked someone would do that for me and wanted to pass on the opportunity to someone else,” Canine said.

Both of Canine’s legs were amputated below the knee after a roadside bomb hit the truck he was driving in Iraq. Canine said he met other amputees while rehabilitating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, who could benefit from a handicap-accessible house.

Canine started raising money for the national housing program in December 2009. His goal was $100,000 — the amount raised by Missouri Credit Unions as title sponsors of his new home — by October.

Canine committed to sending $100 of his own money every month for 10 months and sent a letter to friends and family asking for help. He created a video to show how a handicap-accessible house would remove many restrictions on his mobility. Sliding in and out of his wheelchair, Canine used his arms to scoot himself into rooms his wheelchair could not pass through.

Companies contributed donations, ranging from $250 to $35,000. Events, such as Running for Robert, were held to get community members involved.

In May, a check for $1,055 from Blue Ridge Elementary’s “Coins for Caring” fundraiser helped him reach his goal months in advance.

“That was pretty awesome,” Canine said.

During an assembly May 17, Canine visited the students to thank them in person.

“I just appreciate the support I’ve received throughout the whole thing," he said. "I have seen pretty amazing generosity and met some awesome people."

A recent surgery has taken Canine back to Washington. It could take about four more months to complete physical therapy, Canine said. He could be able to move to Columbia later this year.

"I just wanted to go home," Canine said.

He grew up in Mexico, Mo., and has family in the area.

Canine said Columbia would be a good place to look for a job, and it is close to MU, where he is likely to take classes in January. He enjoys working with electronics and is looking into engineering but said his plans are “kind of open right now.”

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