February 10, 2015
Linda McIntosh | U-T San Diego
CAMP PENDLETON — As the Semper Fi Fund moves into its second decade, the nonprofit has given out more than $100 million to injured service members and their families.
Over the past decade since it was founded, the Oceanside-based nonprofit has helped more than 13,000 wounded and critically ill veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The effort, spearheaded by a Marine wife, Karen Guenther, began with $500.
Guenther, who was working as a registered nurse at Camp Pendleton, saw the combat wounded coming back from Iraq. She got together with several friends, whose husbands were deployed, to come up with ways to lift the spirits of the injured Marines.
The women started by putting together welcome home bags filled with things a mother would give, like socks, sweatshirts and phone cards. Then they got the idea of helping the Marine’s families from across the country visit their loved ones in the hospital. Each woman put in $100 to start what is known today as the Semper Fi Fund.
Since then the fund has received donations from community groups, individuals, foundations and businesses, earning top marks from Charity Navigator and Charity Watch.
The part-time staff is augmented by more than 100 volunteers and overhead is about 6 percent.
The nonprofit expanded its efforts to support veterans of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces with post 9/11 combat injuries not only in the hospital, but after they get out and continue recovery.
Grants help cover the cost of modifying a home or car to make it wheel-chair accessible and buying adaptive equipment. Financial assistance is offered for rehab ranging from career transitioning and PTSD support to sports therapy through the Semper Fi & Team America’s Fund.
Several new programs started over the last several years, such as the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program, Tim and Sandy Day Canine Companions and Veterans 2 Veterans Transistion Program. The nonprofit has offices at Camp Pendleton and Quantico, Va.