Holloway Road in Ballwin was filled Nov. 21 with hundreds of seated and standing onlookers attending the dedication of the new home built for Police Officer Michael Flamion and his wife, Sarah.
The Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment [RISE] program of the foundation created by movie and television actor and director Gary Sinise sponsored the home’s construction after Flamion was shot and paralyzed from the neck down during a routine traffic stop in July 2017.
As was the case when ground was broken for the home in March, the weatherman again defied early predictions to deliver delightful seasonal weather at a time of year when having such conditions is risky at best. “It’s a good sign,” Ballwin Mayor Tim Pogue observed just before the ceremony began.
Looking out over the crowd, Chris Kuban, the event coordinator for the Foundation and the master of ceremonies, quipped to the Flamions, “This is probably the biggest party you’ll ever have at your home.”
The new dwelling at the corner of Holloway Road and Stoddards Mill Drive is just a block away from the Ballwin Police Station and is designed to accommodate Flamion’s needs as he is confined to a wheelchair.
Among other things, the residence has an open floor plan with large doorways and is equipped with devices that enable Flamion to use voice commands to control everyday tasks ranging from turning on the television to opening doors.
A lifting device mounted in a ceiling track can move the wheelchair-bound officer between the bedroom and bathroom, which features an over-sized shower. A similar lift in a therapy room can move him between two machines designed to help maintain muscle tone. The equipment also can support him in a standing position.
The procession in which the Flamions arrived at the ceremony included their specially equipped minivan and motorcycles ridden by police officers, and members of the Missouri Patriot Guard Riders organization and the Harley Owners Group [HOG Riders]. En route, the retinue made a detour to the Ballwin Elementary School where students and staff members stood outside to greet them with cheers and waving American flags as they passed by.
As the ceremony began, a St. Louis County Police helicopter roared overhead in a fly-over tribute. A color guard from the Metro West Fire Protection District also participated.
Kuban’s greeting to Flamion of “Welcome home, buddy, welcome home,” later was reiterated in near identical terms by Ballwin Police Chief Kevin Scott. He was one of a number of speakers during the ceremony, which also included representatives from RISE, contributors and contractors involved with the Sinise Foundation and the construction project.
The Flamion home is the first in the nation to be built by RISE for a first responder. Other projects have been designed for seriously wounded military personnel.
According to Scott Schaeperkoetter, director of operations for RISE, the organization has built, or has in the planning-construction process, 61 homes around the nation.
Another home to be built soon in the St. Louis area will be for former Army Sgt. Legrand Strickland, who attended the Flamion home dedication and was introduced during the ceremony. In 2010, the veteran lost both legs below the knee in Afghanistan when an explosion struck the military vehicle in which he was riding.
In addition to accolades to the Flamions and the Sinise Foundation, Clarkson Valley resident Jim Shubert also received repeated praise.
A veteran himself and owner of a Manchester furniture store, Shubert is a member of the Foundation’s board of directors and was instrumental in the decision to expand the organization’s efforts to include first responders in addition to military personnel.
Shubert provides furnishings for the homes RISE builds.
In his remarks, Scott described Shubert as “the driving force behind this project [the Flamion home]” and a person who “represents what’s good in this world.”
As the ceremony ended, Kuban led the crowd in calling for the huge American flag in front of, and partially concealing, the home to be moved. The Flamions moved to the front of the house where Sarah Flamion raised a smaller flag on a pole installed there; then, the couple entered their new residence.
The Flamions had been living in an apartment while the home was being planned and built.
Later, while talking with news media inside their new home, Sarah quoted her husband as having asked her earlier that morning, “Can you believe they are giving us this house?”
“Ballwin will forever be my home, that’s for sure,” Flamion affirmed.
To see more photos of the dedication, click here.