Fundraiser to benefit cabin honoring Morris “Moose” Fontenot

SOUTHWICK – Kara Fontenot’s husband changed lives. Now, she is honoring him by helping others
Fontenot’s husband Lt. Col. Morris M. Fontenot, Jr, died Aug. 29, 2014 when the F-15C he was piloting crashed.
Fontenot, Jr., call sign Moose, was stationed at Barnes Air National Guard Base. Since his death, his daughters Natalie and Nicole have attended a summer leadership camp for the children of military members who died during military service.
Fontenot said her family is trying to raise $20,000 to renovate one of the 10 cabins at the camp, which is run by the Knights of Heroes foundation in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“I can’t tell you how much it has helped them in their healing process to connect with other children who lost a parent in the military and participate in activities that build their leadership skills and self esteem,” said Fontenot.
This cabin will be called the Moose Cabin, in memory of the family’s beloved husband and father.
The renovations will include a new septic system that seven of the cabins will share the cost of building, a completely new bathroom, concrete foundation, electrical, plumbing, design, permits, new furniture and interior refinish.
Lt. Col. (Ret) Steve Harrold created the Knights of Heroes Foundation in January of 2007 to commemorate the life of a friend and former pilot, Major Troy Lee “Trojan” Gilbert, who was killed during combat operations. At the time of his death, Major Gilbert was a husband and father of five children.
Each summer, the children of fallen military from across the nation are invited to attend the one-week camp at absolutely no cost. Knights of Heroes is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization and all donations are tax-deductible, and you will receive a form for that purpose.
Fontenot is working jointly with Tucker’s Restaurant in Southwick to hold a fundraiser on March 22. Ten percent of all of their daily proceeds that day will be donated to Knights of Heroes for the Moose Cabin.
AFor those who cannot attend, donations should be made at http://moosecabin.kintera.org. The website also has more information about the Knights of Heroes organization and the camp.
“We’ve already raised over $11,000, but we still have over $9,000 more to go, and every little bit counts,” said Fontenot.
Fontenot sent letters to businesses in the area near Barnes asking for donations toward the Moose Cabin. Tucker’s Restaurant responded by offering to host this fundraising event. Other local businesses, including Nesin Microabrasives Co, Advance Manufacturing Co, Peppermill Catering, Westfield Eye Center and Dunkin Donuts, as well as private individuals have made donations to the Moose Cabin fund.
Knights of Heroes (KOH) recently purchased the camp property with 10 existing cabins and a lodge, but all are in serious need of renovation, the addition of bathrooms and a new septic system. KOH hopes to expand the camp further to be able to accommodate more children in the future.
Fontenot said in the past, 100 children have attended the camp each year, but that was because KOH had to rent property for the camp each year and was limited on space. Now that KOH has purchased property, Fontenot said the organization will be able to serve more children each year once the infrastructure is finished.
Fontenot’s daughters love participating in outdoor adventure activities that build their leadership skills and self esteem.
“As a mother, it is awful to see your children suddenly left without a living father,” said Fontenot. “I worry about how the loss has undermined their sense of security and stability. To see them come home from camp having connected with other kids in the same situation and feeling proud of their accomplishments helped me to know that they are seeing themselves as survivors not victims, which means they are going to be OK.”
Fontenot’s family was embraced in their home community of Longmeadow – and the western Massachusetts area – when her husband died.
“I can’t say enough about the support our family has received from both the Barnes Air National Guard community and the Longmeadow community,” she said. “Immediately after the accident, friends and even people we didn’t know from both communities reached out to us with notes of support, flowers and meals.”
Members of Barnes Air National Guard coordinated two memorial services for Fontenot, Jr., one at Barnes and the other at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where he is buried in the company of many other Air Force heroes.
“The Longmeadow High School community has provided amazing support, including their annual Stroll for Strength memorial event,” Fontenot said. “Friends and neighbors still check on us, invite us to dinner and help me with getting the girls to their sports and extracurricular activities.”
Around the one-year anniversary of Fontenot, Jr,’s death last year, a large group from Barnes Air National Guard came out to help with Fontenot’s yard work and got it into “tip-top shape.”
The fighter pilots at Barnes Air National Guard also took up a collection to buy each of Fontenot’s daughters a really nice birthday gift.
“We have constantly been surrounded by love and support and have never felt alone,” she said.
Fontenot said she would like her husband remembered for all the good he did.
“I would like them to remember that Moose’s life goal was to do the greatest good possible for the greatest number of people possible,” she said. “He wanted to make a positive difference in the life of every single person he touched. He devoted his entire adult life to serving our country as an Air Force pilot and leader, and I would have loved to see what other great things he would have accomplished after his military retirement.”
Fontenot said although she will never know what else he could have done, his legacy still lives on in the lives of many others he inspired.
“I receive emails and letters all of the time with the memories of friends and co-workers telling me how much he meant to them and how he changed their lives,” she said. “The Moose Cabin is one more way in which the girls and I would like to see his legacy of caring for others live on.”

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