How You and Fisher House So Cal helped the Almeida Family

Almeida Family
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Fisher House Southern California | Supporting Americas Military Fisher House So Cal logo gift to fisher house so cal

Dear Friends,

We’re writing to ask you to help us at Fisher House Southern California to provide our veteran and military families with temporary housing – at no cost to them – while their loved ones are treated for an illness or injury at our VA and military hospitals in Long Beach, Camp Pendleton and San Diego.

You see, our veterans and service members don’t always get a say in where their treatment will take place, and they may have to travel hundreds of miles for that care, with a loved one by their side. The costs of housing and living necessities can quickly exceed their financial abilities.

Here is one tragic, yet powerful story. Lieutenant Joel Almeida is an ordained minister who, in 2021, fulfilled a lifelong dream by becoming a U.S. Navy Chaplain. In November 2021, Joel was transferred with his family to serve at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, the largest US Marine Corps base in the country. And that’s when tragedy struck.

On January 20, as Joel was driving his wife Christie, their twelve year-old daughter Stephany, and their six year-old son, Johnny, their car was struck by a truck. The sheer force of impact caused their car to tumble several times before breaking into pieces. 

Tragically, Christie died instantly. Johnny was ejected from the car in his car seat, seatbelt still buckled. His head hit a large rock and he suffered serious trauma to the brain. Miraculously, Joel and Stephany only suffered minor injuries. Johnny, however, had to be airlifted to Loma Linda Medical Center with life-threatening injuries.

Suddenly, Joel was a widower, and his son, Johnny, was fighting for his life, having been placed on life support and in a medically-induced coma to reduce brain hemorrhage. All this was happening in a brand new state with friends and family many miles away, no car and limited resources. Where would he stay while Johnny was recovering at Loma Linda? And on a service member’s limited paycheck, how would he cover the cost to stay in a hotel with Stephany, while Johnny fought for his life over the next month? 

Fortunately, Joel’s fellow Sailors and Marines knew of the Fisher House mission to provide temporary lodging for military families during their medical need – at no cost to them, and they reached out to Fisher House So Cal. While there is no Fisher House near Loma Linda Medical Center, in the spirit of our Fisher House motto – to provide a ‘home away from home’ for military families in their time of medical need – we were able to find Joel and Stephany a hotel near the Loma Linda medical campus.

And thanks to our generous donors, we were able to cover all of the Almeida family’s lodging during this horrible ordeal. For the next month, Joel was able to remain by Johnny’s bedside and focus on his son’s recovery, while Stephany was able to stay with Joel’s mom, who had flown in to be with the family at the hotel.  

Johnny underwent significant care to relieve his trauma, then extensive rehabilitation to learn how to walk and speak again. Now, several months later, Johnny’s doctors are confident that Johnny will make a full recovery by July. Joel, in the meantime, is working to rebuild his family without his wife Christie by his side. That’s how our donors were able to help.

Reflecting, Joel shared with us, “you have no idea just how much Fisher House So Cal helped my family. The amount of love and support from Fisher House helped us pull through, and allowed us to be by Johnny’s bedside hourly. Fisher House is like family. They truly blessed us during our time of need.”  

Fisher House So Cal is very thankful to have helped the Almeida family in their time of need, and to also help many other military families who stay in our Fisher Houses at the VA and Navy hospitals in Long Beach, Camp Pendleton and our two houses in San Diego – at no cost to any of them – thanks to our generous donors. 

With that in mind, we ask you to please consider a gift to Fisher House So Cal today so we can continue to help families like the Almeidas. Thanks to generous friends of Fisher House, your gift will now have double the impact, as every dollar you contribute will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $25,000 by July 4 by the family of Beverly Bingham*.  Please use the enclosed envelope to send in your gift, or you can make your gift online at www.FisherHouseSoCal.org today! 

Whatever you can afford, your gift will help our military families just like the Almeidas when they need us most. They will be incredibly grateful for what you do for them. It’s on their behalf and the many other families you will help, that we send our heartfelt, genuine thanks.

Yours truly,
Terry L. Geiling
Lieutenant Commander, USN (Ret)
FHSC President and CEO
Michael M. Frazier
Colonel, USMC (Ret)
FHSC Director and House Liaison
Camp Pendleton and San Diego

* PS: The family of our recently deceased Board member, Beverly Bingham, has made a very generous $25,000 pledge in her memory to match all gifts to our current appeal by JULY 4 – so thanks for sending in your gift TODAY!  We would be very grateful if you would help us meet the Bingham match. Again, on behalf of the many Fisher House families you will help, THANK YOU!

Almeida BUC Slip