U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (both D-MD) today officially kicked off a new nation-wide program allowing the American public to donate hotel reward points to wounded warriors and their families. Six major hotel companies are participating in "Hotels for Heroes," which will defray the travel costs of wounded warriors receiving care through the military health system, as well as family and friends visiting them.
The program was created by bipartisan legislation authored by Congressman Ruppersberger and Senator Cardin and passed overwhelmingly in December. At today's event, the lawmakers announced that Marriott, Wyndham, AmericInn and Best Western are all accepting donated points as of today. Customers of Choice Hotels will be able to convert their reward points to cash donations to support the program. A sixth sponsor, Starwood Hotels, has generously donated corporate reward points to start the program.
"The Hotels for Heroes program is a winner for our nation because it provides military families with the support they need when their loved ones are wounded and it allows Americans to help those who have served our country so bravely," said Senator Cardin. "The creation of this program has been a real joint effort, and I particularly want to commend Congressman Ruppersberger, the Fisher House and all the hotel chains who are participating for making Hotels for Heroes a reality. We all want what is best for our troops and their families and now they will have this extra support available to them in times of need."
"Sometimes the love and support of family and friends at the bedside of a wounded warrior is the best medicine," Congressman Ruppersberger said. "Thousands of Americans have already generously donated millions of frequent flyer miles and I am thrilled that they will now have another way of showing our endless appreciation for the sacrifices of our troops and their families. I want to thank Senator Cardin, all of the participating hotels and the Fisher House for helping to bring this vision to life."
"Hotels for Heroes" will be administered by the nonprofit Fisher House, a non-profit organization that opens its homes to military families visiting their injured loved ones at hospitals across the country.
"The family members of our wounded heroes should never have to stress about the financial burden of travel," said David Coker, President of the Fisher House Foundation. "We are honored to help facilitate the process and are confident that the American public will help make this new program a success."
"Marriott Rewards is pleased to offer members meaningful opportunities to donate points to organizations they believe in," said Ed French, senior vice president, Marriott Rewards. "As an organization that supports the men and women who so bravely serve our country, we are proud to partner with Hotels for Heroes. In the few weeks since members have been able to donate points, they have responded overwhelmingly by donating 24 million Marriott Rewards points. Thank you to Fisher House, Senator Cardin and Congressman Ruppersberger for their leadership in creating the partnerships that made Hotels for Heroes possible."
"AmericInn is proud to be one of the founding partners of the Hotels for Heroes program," said Paul Kirwin, President and CEO of AmericInn. "As our name suggests, we're a patriotic brand that has supported the troops in the past through our AmericInn Cares initiatives, so this was a natural extension for us."
"Hotels for Heroes is a program we take great pride in supporting", said Robin Korman, senior vice president of Loyalty Marketing and Strategic Partnerships for Wyndham Hotel Group. "We donated 10 million Wyndham Rewards points as a show of respect and commitment to the service men and women who have already given so much of themselves. We applaud Congressman Ruppersberger and Senator Cardin for the passion and work they have put into this initiative and we hope the nearly 1,000 room nights the donation provides will go a long way in easing the recovery of soldiers and their families all across the country."
"Hotels for Heroes" is modeled off the national "Hero Miles" program, which was created by Congressman Ruppersberger and provides free round-trip airfare to wounded warriors traveling to receive care through the military health system, as well as to friends and family visiting them. Flights are made possible by frequent flyer miles donated by the American public.
Monday's event featured the Allen family, including Staff Sergeant Charles "Chaz" Allen, who lost both legs after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in January 2011. Jessica Allen used "Hero Miles" to travel between Tennessee and Walter Reed Army Medical Center to be at her husband's bedside, but had to stay at a local hotel until space became available at the nearby Fisher House.