Hearts open up for Sugar Grove Purple Heart recipient
By Tina JohansSon For The Courier-News August 20, 2012 3:42PM
U.S. Army Spc. Nick Mapson, his wife Jackie and their son Jayden, 14 months, are greeted by supporters holding flags as they arrive at a block party in their honor at Newport Cove at the Chain O'Lakes near Antioch Saturday afternoon. August 18, 2012. Mapson who was injured in Afghanistan and his family received a new home through LIFEhouse,. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 21, 2012 6:28AM
The minute he put the key into the door of the new cornflower-blue home near Bluff Lake in Antioch on Saturday, severely wounded veteran Nick Mapson could barely hold back his excitement.
“We’re moving in Wednesday and I can’t wait!” he said.
This is the first house the 28-year-old Purple Heart recipient from Sugar Grove has ever owned, and it also happens to be the very first LIFEhouse for a Hero, built by New American Homes, developer of the Newport Cove subdivision.
Mapson, his wife Jackie and young sons Jayden and Braxton, arrived at the home in a 1972 Excalibur driven by owner Ed LeTourneau, business developer of the National Veterans Museum in Hoffman Estates, as scores of Patriot Guard Riders escorted.
Fanfare at the Newport Cove subdivision consisted of a show by Team Fastrax skydivers waving American Flags, including one flown at Ground Zero, and music by the U.S. Navy Lake Area Swing Band. All told, there were about 500 people in attendance.
NFL Retired Players Association members were on hand to help in the festivities and fund-raising efforts for the 501c3 Chrysalis Foundation, which managed the LIFEhouse project. Retired NFL players offered autographed photos and operated bean-bag toss games while musicians played and food was served.
Members of the Grayslake Knitters Club presented a hand-knitted blanket and shawl that they created for the family.
An anonymous donor gave $200,000 seed money toward the home valued at more than $400,000, and about 40 entities and individuals also donated, said Rita Unzner, executive officer for the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago.
The project is part of the National Touchdown for Homes — which involves HBAGC and the Chicago NFL Players Association former players chapter, along with New American Homes.
Unzner said Mapson was among three entrants for the home and the anonymous cash donor was so impressed after reading his story, she chose him as the recipient in June.
“I don’t know who she (the anonymous donor) is, but I want to thank her and everyone else so much,” said Mapson. “On behalf of me and my wife and kids, we are very, very, very thankful.”
The Mapson’s had been renting a townhome. “There’s definitely a sense of security now. And it will be nice to have a yard for our boys and two dogs to run and play,” said the veteran.
Two $5,000 college scholarships that will increase in value each year also were presented to the Mapson children.
The single-story, four-bedroom home with wide doorways and hallways, reachable and easy-to-use controls and switches, lowered countertops and lighted stairs leading to the finished basement, make it perfect for people like Mapson, who suffered debilitating injuries in Afghanistan in 2004 when the military truck he was driving caught fire after an explosion. U.S. Army Spc. Mapson suffered third-degree burns to his face, arms and hands, as well as other injuries.
“I spent over a year in and out of the hospital and I’m still recovering,” said Mapson. “After eight years, I’m finally able to walk without a cane.”
The dwelling is called a Universal Design home, making it comfortable living for anyone at any age no matter if they have a disability or not. “And it’s a home people can grow into,” said Paul Sowacke, channel manager of Chicago-based LP Building Products which provided siding and trim for house.
Unzner said she and others involved in the project are hopeful to continue building homes like this for needy veterans.