The disabled Army vet moves around with ease in his new master bathroom. Dungan worked closely with OKC builder Jim Bower to customize accessibility for the entire family, including recessed countertops, retractable cabinets, wider door frames, and threshold elimination. Photo provided for OSHBA by Shannon Cornman
Smart home built for vet through Gary Sinise Foundation
By LUKE BOYD
In September 2010, Army Sgt. Rusty Dunagan's life changed forever.
While on patrol in Afghanistan, an improvised explosive device, or IED, exploded when he stepped on a landmine connected to it, causing him to lose both legs and his left arm.
Dunagan endured 30 surgeries and overcame serious infections in the years following that day.
Confined by a wheelchair, he had to re-learn how to live. Simple tasks, such as taking a shower, doing the dishes or even watching television were suddenly more complicated.
He struggled to find a house suitable for his needs.
Rusty Dunagan and OKC builder Jim Bowers of Jim
BowersConstruction embarked on a new friendship
after completionof the Dunagan's dream home.
The home was made possible through programs
by Gary Sinise Foundation and Stephen Siller
Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Photo provided for
OSHBA by Shannon Comman
That's when a family member called the Gary Sinise Foundation. Sinise is best known for his role as "Lt. Dan" in the six-time Academy award-winning film "Forest Gump."
The foundation's R.I.S.E (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) program helps disabled veterans build homes that could accommodate their handicap, and helps them achieve the freedom that those without physical disabilities enjoy. Also, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation worked to make the home a reality.
Today, Dunagan is living in a new home, but it's just not any home.
Built in north Edmond, his home uses "smart" technology to power everything from the television to the cabinetry. With one touch on his iPad or IPhone, Dunagan can turn off any light, raise and lower cabinets and blinds, lock doors, control the air conditioning and more.
"Everything is so simple," said Dunagan. "I don't have to worry about whether the doors or locked or if my kids are safe. It's nice to have that peace of mind.
OSHBA member Jim Bowers was the contractor and builder of the home, and donated his time and resources to the nine-month project.
Bowers illustrates the importance of being a part of a professional organization such as OSHBA which values "paying it forward" to so many in our communities.
"Sure, we wanted to build the best possible home we could, but part of being an OSHBA member is not just about building a great house, but being able to give back to the community we live and work in. It felt good to be a part of something special," said Bowers.
It was Bowers' job to communicate with all the vendors and make sure the nine-month project stayed on track - a job that was made more difficult with the extreme weather this spring.
"I have so much appreciation for the sacrifices that Rusty made," Bowers said. "The rain threw us off a little bit, but everybody pushed through it. The crew we had was amazing.
The bathrooms feature custom vanities, showers and tubs enabling Dunagan to use them with very little effort. The home even has a central vacuum system throughout the house.
All that technology required $100,000 worth of servers and wiring.
Joel Berrettini of I.T and Media was the brains behind the Sinise project. Berrettini is based in Wisconsin and is contracted for many of the Sinise homes across the country. He traveled to Edmond and installed everything himself.
If Dunagan ever needs help programming a feature or troubleshooting an app, Berrettini is just a text message or phone call away.
"Joel was amazing," said Dunagan. "He was here three days wiring everything. He even installed my TV in the garage. If I ever have an issue, he can access my iPad from his office and fix it."
Facing eastwardly from the Great Room, the French
doors are double-paned with low-E glass and
have center blinds. The lever is set out of the
reach of the Dunagan's 18-month-old daughter.
Photo provided for OSHBA by Shannon Comman
The home is 4,300 square feet and would typically require an enormous amount of money to heat and cool, but this one comes with geothermal wells donated by Titian Burris with ClimateMaster and state of the art foam insulation donated by Oklahoma Foam.
"Towards the end, when we were finishing up the house, we used the heat and air conditioning a lot," said Bowers. "But the bill stayed right around $150. For a house this size, that's really good."
Dunagan, who is now retired, works for Congressman Steve Russell. He and his wife Angie have five kids: Marissa 17; Daniel, 15; Rocky, 12; Annalisa, 5; and Rosalee, 18 months. One of his favorite features about the house is having his kids' bedrooms on the other end of the house, giving him and his wife Angie some privacy. But like most fathers, he wants to make sure his family is safe at all times. That's why he had the builders install cameras throughout the house.
"I can see what's going on at all times," said Dunagan. "Even though we love having some space to ourselves, I still like knowing what's going on over there and that they're safe."
In recent years, tornadoes have wreaked havoc in Oklahoma. Bowers, and the Sinese Foundation, made sure the Dunagan's would be safe should one ever come close to their dream home. A state-of-the-art, safe-room includes air conditioning and is powered by a propane generator. This means that even if the home were to lose electricity, the generator would still allow Dunagan and his family to maintain all the technological advantages of their home.
"If the power went out, we'd never know it," said Dunagan. "The generator would kick on right away. With all the weather we have here, that's going to make a big difference."
The foundation also provided custom landscaping for the five-acre yard, complete with an automatic underground sprinkler system.
"The sprinkler system has a rainfall sensor that automatically tells the sprinklers to come on when it gets too dry," said Dunagan. "So even if I'm out of town for awhile, my grass won't die."
Read the story at the Edmond Life and Leisure website.