Helping Soldiers and Families Connect

Contact: Mary Margaret Colliver

 

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Sprang and KTHN connected to the Freedom Calls Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that raises funds to place communication centers at the front lines. After the first of the year, KTHN will host “Family Freedom Festivals” across the state, helping hundreds of soldiers spend time with their families via videoconference technology.

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 13, 2004) -- A University of Kentucky official’s innovative work will enable Kentucky soldiers stationed in Iraq to spend time with their families while also enjoying this weekend’s UK-University of Louisville basketball game.

Rob Sprang, director of the Kentucky TeleHealth Network (KTHN) at the UK Chandler Medical Center, came up with the idea – and the technological know-how – to allow Kentucky soldiers stationed in Iraq to watch the Dec. 18 in-state rivalry through the U.S. government’s video system, while also communicating with their families.

Eighteen soldiers are being selected from the military bases. Their families will be invited to this weekend’s game. From one hour before until one hour after the game, two private video conference rooms will be available for the families and the soldiers to have personal time together.

The videoconference signals from Camp Fallujah and Camp Cooke in Iraq will be transmitted to Freedom Hall, allowing fans watching the game to see and hear the soldiers on big-screen televisions.

The operation has been dubbed “Freedom Calls from Freedom Hall” by Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

“This will provide an opportunity for our troops overseas to have the hottest ticket in Kentucky – a great game and one that every Kentuckian over there would be vitally interested in,” Sprang said. “At the same time, it will give our troops the opportunity to spend time with their loved ones during the holiday season.”

“Kentucky and Louisville compete hard every time we play,” said Kentucky coach Tubby Smith. “But this time, ‘Freedom Calls’ will force everyone to put the game in perspective. It is only a game, not a matter of life and death. Many of the soldiers in Iraq are the same ages as our players.”

Sprang and KTHN connected to the Freedom Calls Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that raises funds to place communication centers at the front lines. After the first of the year, KTHN will host “Family Freedom Festivals” across the state, helping hundreds of soldiers spend time with their families via videoconference technology.

Making the idea a reality took a tremendous amount of coordination with ESPN, UK and UofL officials, the governor’s office and other state government departments, and the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center, Sprang said.

“This gives us a unique opportunity to wish a Merry Christmas to our sons and daughters who are in harm’s way,” Fletcher said. “We want to assure them that our hearts and minds are with them even as we cheer for the Cats and the Cards.”


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