HELPS WOUNDED WARRIORS
July 31, 2010
KISS kicks off tour to help wounded warriors

By ELOISE OGDEN

When fair-goers packed the new grandstand for the KISS concert last Saturday night at the North Dakota State Fair, they also were helping military members returning from war who have been wounded.

Minot was the second stop for the rock group's 32-city North American "The Hottest Show on Earth" tour.

Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyo., was the first stop, the night before Minot, where KISS kicked off donating $1 from every concert ticket sold to go to Central Savannah River Area Wounded Warrior Care Project in Augusta, Ga. The tour ends in Fontana, Calif., Sept. 25.

The KISS concert in Cheyenne had a total attendance of 16,715 people and $15,884 will go to the Wounded Warrior Care Project, Cheyenne Frontier Days officials said.

Laurie Ott, of Augusta, executive director of the CRSA Wounded Warrior Care Project, hearing the number of tickets sold at the State Fair's KISS show, said, "That's just incredible." KISS also reportedly played to record-breaking crowds in Cheyenne.

According to State Fair officials, 15,082 people attended the KISS concert in the new grandstand.

Ott said the rock group got the idea to donate $1 of every ticket sold on their concert tour after visiting wounded warriors in the Charlie Norwood Veterans Administration Medical Center in Augusta in October. She said KISS was performing in Atlanta when they came to Augusta to visit wounded military members at the medical center. Three members of the band, Paul Stanley, founding member of the group, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer made the trip.

"They came to Augusta personally and visited the inpatient troops who could not make it to the concert," she said.

"They were there for the troops signed autographs, took photos, handed out T-shirts and spent time talking to the troops all the inpatients," she said.

KISS invited about 100 wounded warriors to their concert in Atlanta where the rock group recognized them and gave them back-stage access.

Augusta's Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center has the nation's only active-duty rehabilitation unit located in a VA facility. It has treated more than 740 inpatients and 1,250 total patients, to date, all of them active-duty soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen and Coast Guardsmen. The medical center also is home to the VA's 71-bed Spinal Cord Injury Unit, the largest in the system in number of patients followed, and a 15-bed Blind Rehabilitation Center.

Eisenhower Army Medical Center, also in Augusta, is one of the top five military treatment facilities for receiving air evacuees directly from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The CRSA Wounded Warrior Care Project focuses on using Augusta's wounded warrior care assets, including the two medical centers.

The project has other initiatives/programs including an employment and training program for Iraq and Afghanistan returnees, marriage and family enrichment retreats, computer training programs and mentor programs.

"What the Augusta model offers is a community-based structure for coordinating those resources," project information says.

Besides their interest in the troops, Ott said the KISS members took an interest in the project's community-based model. "They took an interest in streamlining and harnessing all these resources," she said.

She said transitional housing is one of the present needs of the project. "We get troops from all over the country who come to Augusta for rehabilitation," she said.

Ott said she isn't aware of plans for KISS to return to Augusta. "But we'd welcome them back with open arms. They were here once without us being a stop on tour, we'd welcome them back. It's so significant they're calling attention and using (that) platform to do it,"

"We are so appreciative of the people of Minot and Cheyenne and of KISS. When the final accounting is completed for those particular events we look forward to receiving the funds," she said.

For more about the CRSA Wounded Warrior Care Project, visit (www.projectaugusta.org).