Runners step up to aid Fisher House

BEACON FALLS — Woodland Regional High School Principal Kurt Ogren wasn’t planning on running in the annual Army Ten-Miler this year. Then he got a phone call from Kevin Creed, chairman of the Friends of Fisher House Connecticut.

Creed called Ogren in the spring to ask if he and his wife, Alicia, wanted to be part of the Connecticut race team to raise money to help build a Fisher House in West Haven. It was an offer the Ogrens couldn’t refuse.

“They reached out to us because we’ve helped raised money for Fisher House in the past and obviously the running is right up my alley,” said Kurt Ogren, 47, who ran cross country and track at Hamden High School and Springfield College, and already has about 12 races under his belt this year.

The Fisher House Foundation is a nonprofit organization that builds and maintains long-term residential facilities near military hospitals for the families of seriously-injured soldiers to stay during the rehabilitation process. The foundation currently operates 71 houses, according to its website.

Friends of Fisher House Connecticut has pledged to raise $3 million for the construction of a Fisher House on the campus of the VA Healthcare System in West Haven, according to the organization’s website. The Fisher House Foundation will match the $3 million for a total of $6 million to build the Fisher House in West Haven, which will be the first one in Connecticut.

The Friends of Fisher House Connecticut has raised more than $2 million toward its goals and construction of the West Haven Fisher House is expected to start in the fall, according to the organization.

The Ogrens, who live in Seymour, are looking to do their part in making sure the Friends of Fisher House Connecticut reaches its goal.

“If there’s any little thing that we can do to help our military members, veterans and their families, we should do it,” Kurt Ogren said.

The Army Ten-Miler, which is in its 32rd year, is a ten-mile race set for Oct. 9 in Washington, D.C. The race starts and finishes at the Pentagon, and the course goes by a host of landmarks and memorials, including the Arlington National Cemetery.

“While running the race I will be thinking of the men and women who sacrifice each and every day for my freedom. I will also be thinking of their families who will benefit from the monies raised from this worthwhile event. Raising awareness and funds for the Fisher House of Connecticut is my small way of giving back and saying thank you,” said Alicia Ogren, 50, who doesn’t have the running background of her husband but has been stepping up her training.

The Ogrens are seeking donations for the Friends of Fisher House Connecticut. They set a personal goal of raising $1,200, and have exceeded that. As of early this month, they had raised about $1,500, Kurt Ogren said. Now, they would like to get to $2,500.

Anyone who wants to donate can make checks payable to: “Friends of Fisher House Connecticut,” and mail them to: Kurt Ogren, Woodland Regional High School, 135 Back Rimmon Road, Beacon Falls, CT 06483.

For the Ogrens, running in the race has a personal significance in more ways than one.

Alicia Ogren is from West Haven, where the Fisher House will be built, and worked at West Haven High School and Notre Dame High School of West Haven. Kurt Ogren worked at West Haven High School before coming to Woodland.

The Ogrens also have strong connections to the military. Alicia Ogren’s father served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Kurt Ogren’s late father, Karl, served in the U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard. The couple also has a nephew who graduated from West Point.

“I just always had an exposure to [the military] through family and also students. I’ve always respected the students who have chosen that, as well,” said Kurt Ogren, who has run several races in the past to raise money for organizations that assist veterans.

He added, “I just believe in the Fisher House and what it stands for.”