St. Louis, MO – Actor Gary Sinise, best known for his roles in “Forest Gump” and “Criminal Minds,” honored first responders on the anniversary of 9/11 by giving two fully-equipped “smart homes” to wounded police officers in the St. Louis area.
Retired Arnold Police Officer Ryan O’Conner was shot in the head by a suspect he was transporting to jail in December of 2017.
Retired Rock Hill Police Officer Matt Crosby was shot while responding to a domestic disturbance call in April of 2010, KMOX reported.
Officer Crosby was struck in the shoulder and the bullet lodged in his spine, leaving him paralyzed.
Both former police officers will be confined to wheelchairs for the rest of their lives, and both have been struggling to survive with their families in homes that are ill-equipped for wheelchair users.
The Gary Sinise Foundation put out a press release about the gifts on Tuesday, but foundation representatives formally announced the move at an event in the St. Louis area on Wednesday with both wounded heroes present.
Retired Officer Crosby told WGN that he bangs his hands every time he goes through a doorway, and said he has been unable to access multiple areas inside his home.
He said the “smart home” will change his family’s lives.
“I'm looking forward to my kids having their own space,” Crosby said.
Retired Officer O’Conner was moved to tears by the actor’s generosity and thanked the Gary Sinise Foundation, speaking with assistance from his wife.
“I am one grateful American,” O’Conner said.
The Gary Sinise Foundation described the terror attacks of 9/11 as a turning point in the actor’s life, according to a press release.
“From the carnage and loss of life that September day, Gary was resolved to take action and commit to those who bravely raised their right hand and took an oath to faithfully serve and protect our nation and communities. The 9/11 attacks were a turning point in his life and a pivotal step in his journey from self to service,” the release explained.
The foundation’s RISE program - Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment – has provided countless wounded veterans and first responders with home modifications, adapted vehicles, and mobility devices.
On Tuesday, foundation representatives announced the contribution of two specially-adapted “smart homes” for the officers whose lives were changed in the line of duty while serving their communities.
“Officers Crosby and O’Connor can look forward to a more comfortable recovery and rehabilitation process in 100% mortgage-free homes that uniquely suit their mobility and daily life needs all while fostering greater independence,” the press release said.
The foundation’s website explained that the RISE program constructs one-of-a-kind, specially-adapted “smart homes for the nation’s most severely wounded heroes.”
“This program predominantly supports defenders that were injured in combat operations or during training while performing their duties,” the site explained. “These 100 percent mortgage-free homes ease the daily challenges faced by these heroes and their families who sacrifice alongside them.”
The Gary Sinise Foundation is also well-known for supporting the Snowball Express program that provides an amazing holiday experience to Gold Star children, now in partnership with Walt Disney World in Florida.