Wounded Veteran Receives Life-Changing Smart Home with Core Brands Technology from the Gary Sinise Foundation

The Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E program built the high tech home with an ELAN Control System to make daily routines as simple as possible for the family.

For severely wounded veterans, everyday actions that most people take for granted can become major obstacles to regaining their independence. Since 2012,Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) program has been helping wounded veterans live their fullest lives through the donation of modern, custom-built, and accessible smart homes. When the foundation learned of U.S. Army Captain Luis Avila’s miraculous survival following a devastating IED attack in Afghanistan, they knew he and his family would benefit immensely from a newly customized home.

The December 27, 2011 blast took Capt. Avila’s left leg, gave him two heart attacks, two strokes, brain damage and near-complete paralysis from lack of oxygen, and damaged his eyesight. While being transported to Germany for care immediately following the attack, Luis needed to be revived twice and flat lined for a total of seven minutes. He then slipped into a coma. On February 13, 2012, 40 days after the attack, Avila opened his eyes for the first time. For the next four years, Avila, his wife and their three teenage sons lived in a temporary home near Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland, where he attends physical and speech therapy five days a week and is working hard to regain verbal skills and use of his arms.

Thanks to the R.I.S.E program and smart home technologies from Core Brands installed by local experts Chesapeake Systems Service, the Avilas finally have a home they can call their own, where Luis can use and enjoy the entire house with his family. Through the ELAN Entertainment & Control System and ELAN app, the Avilas can control many of their home’s subsystems including the lights, security, heating/cooling, door locks, motorized window shades and multi-room audio. With renewed use of his arms, these technologies give Avila a huge boost of independence and help the family manage day-to-day tasks and routines.

According to Jack Rainey, General Manager of Chesapeake Systems Service, Avila’s damaged eyesight required some special additions to help make full use of the system. “ELAN’s technologies can change people’s home lives, but the most important factor is always how easy it is to use,” Rainey said. “While ELAN is known for being user-friendly and easy to learn, you do have to be able to see the buttons in the app. For Luis, we recognized this need and custom-programmed the app to have much larger buttons to make it as useful as possible. The whole point of these homes is to make life more manageable for the families, and this was one small addition made especially for the Avilas.”

While the home is all about mobility and convenience, one special treat for the Avilas is the “man cave”, a home theater room featuring a Sony projector and 120-inch motorized screen with a 5.1 audio system with SpeakerCraft AIM Series 2 speakers and a Sunfire HRS10 subwoofer. With this room, Avila can have a true movie theater experience with his family, controlling it all with an ELAN gHR200 remote. The remote is personalized to account for Avila’s limited hand dexterity. 

Beyond niceties like SpeakerCraft multi-room audio and eight TVs, much of the technology provides enhanced peace of mind and ease of operation. For example, the home features six outdoor security cameras that can be viewed in the ELAN app, four electronic door locks and a fully-motorized front door, a front door video intercom that displays on the app and in-wall touchscreens when activated, plus 30 lighting loads and several window shades all controlled by the ELAN system.  

As the family gets accustomed to the new home and their new lives there, the experts at Chesapeake Systems Service are helping them make it more useful by incorporating scheduling and event triggers, that cater to the family’s needs, particularly those of Capt. Avila. These enhancements can remove many steps from daily processes, such as managing the daily climate schedule, automatically opening window shades and dimming lights in the morning, automatically turning on the front hallways lights when the front door opens at night, or creating a “movie” button for the man cave that will turn on the projector, lower the screen and fire up the audio system. 

According to Judith Otter, Executive Director of the Gary Sinise Foundation, “The generous contributions from our partners like Core Brands and Chesapeake Systems Service helped bring our vision to life and give the Avilas the smart home they deserve. Without partners like these, we wouldn’t be able to help as many veterans as we do. We’re grateful that these gracious American companies recognize the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform and contribute directly to individuals’ lives.”

Otter continued to explain that in addition to the high tech aspects, the entire structure was designed and built to aid to Avila’s mobility and recovery. To allow Capt. Avila to move freely around the home, hard floors were incorporated throughout the residence, and the entire home is built to ADA specifications to provide full wheelchair mobility. Perhaps the most unique mobility device in the home is a motorized sling transport system that connects Luis’ bed directly to the master bathroom, so he can get to the shower or sink without needing his wheelchair or help from anybody else. 

According to Otter, “What makes a home life-changing is that it provides something the owners didn’t have before. For the Avilas, this home gives them the ability to spend more time together, makes life easier for Luis, and removes some of the obstacles to everyday life. The technologies from Core Brands give the whole family an entirely new, simpler way of doing things at home, and I believe it has truly changed their lives for the better.”  

For hi-res photos of the home, click here.