The military is an important theme in Michael Ferrara’s life. The teen student at Hunterdon Central Regional High School has family members who have served, he’s helped rekindle the Student Soldier Support Club at his school and he even plans to join up one day.
“My freshman year, I emailed the teacher that runs the club and he said all the seniors left; there’s nobody in the club,” he explained to NJ.com. “So I restarted it. I think it’s awesome that people are out there fighting for everybody’s freedom.”
His interest didn’t end there. In 2020, the plight of homeless veterans became an important issue to the teen, who decided to raise money for Houses for Warriors, a program that would get veterans off the streets and into a shelter.
Specifically, Ferrara wanted to raise a few thousand dollars to go toward the building of a group home — a feat he hoped to commemorate with a few bricks at the location being dedicated to veterans from his own family.
“If we hit my current goal of $4,000, I’m going to dedicate three of the four bricks to two of my grandparents and my uncle,” he said in October. “My uncle was in the Marines, my one grandfather on my dad’s side was in the Navy, and my other grandfather on my mom’s side is in the Army.”
Andrew Canales, the CEO of Houses for Warriors and an Iraq War veteran, is thankful for the young man’s interest.
“If I had 100 more people like Michael today, we would have that building tomorrow,” Canales told NJ.com last year.
He added in an interview with Fox News that shelters are high-stress places for vets due to the “constant open drug use, higher encounters with violent and aggressive individuals with severe mental health issues, the constant risk of theft and their personal property being stolen” — so building a place just for them, where they could enjoy safety, comfort and vocational training, was the dream.
But that dream came with a hefty price tag — something Ferrara was eager to help with.
He planned to raise the money through donations he earned participating in another major interest in his life: Running marathons. He decided to run the Marine Corps Marathon in October and hold various fundraisers to raise the money needed to help create the group home in Colorado.
It didn’t bother the New Jersey teen that the house he was helping pay for would be in Denver.
“I decided to raise money for a Colorado nonprofit living in New Jersey because a homeless veteran is a homeless veteran,” Ferrara told Fox. “Our veterans have fought for all 50 states, not just one. So, I feel it would be wrong of me to not raise money for homeless veterans just because they happen to live in a different state.”
“I picked out Houses for Warriors because it’s sad that these veterans give up everything,” he told NJ.com. “So I’m trying to help out any way I can to make that right.”
Ferrara more than met his goal. In total, he raised $12,000 to donate to the project: a home that will house up to nine veterans. Donors have been kept updated on the process through a Facebook page set up for the occasion called “Mike Ferrara’s fundraiser for Houses For Warriors.”
“Fundraiser Update!” reads a post from Ray Ferrara on July 11. “Mike and I visited Denver, Colorado this weekend to attend the grand opening of Houses for Warriors’ very first Veterans group home! Your $12,000 in donations were the key to making this happen.
“Mike was also recognized for his efforts. 9 homeless veterans will be in their new home in the next few weeks. If you look at the bricks, several were created for installation at the house recognizing all of you that made this happen. And if you’d like to help furnish it, click the Amazon registry link below. Thank you all!”
While this is a great accomplishment, it’s probably only the beginning for the teen who is so dedicated to recognizing the sacrifices that veterans have made.
“I’ve always looked up to our veterans, the people that have served our country, because they’re out there every single day, they’re going to put their lives on the line,” Ferrara said.
“I have a great respect for the people who are willing to and have sacrificed everything to serve our country and to keep America free.”
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