This week’s Hometown Hero is John Santa, founder of the “Marathon Jam.” Benefitting the Fisher House at Ft. Bragg, the Jam has the motto “Curatas Per Musica,” Latin for “Healing Through Music.” A non-profit organization that “seeks to improve the lives of injured Veterans, First Responders and their families,” Marathon Jam’s main focus is to hold its annual namesake fundraiser.

“It started on my car port in Chapel Hill North Carolina, so we can all take credit for that,” said John Santa. “It has in fact grown to about 20 cities across the country. In 13 years we’ve raised over $150,000, mostly for the Ft. Bragg Fisher House.”

With humble beginnings in VA hospitals across North Carolina, the Marathon Jam has evolved into a far-reaching effort, with individually organized events popping up as far away as Arizona and Iraq and donations to individual Fisher Houses and Fisher House National continuing to stack up. Across continents and countries, in Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan and England and in over 20 cities across the United States.

“13 years ago I promised Laurie Southerland, the manager of the Fisher House at Ft. Bragg,” said Santa. “I said every year I will give you $10,000.” That personal connection to his cause is part of what makes John Santa a Hometown Hero. The Marathon Jam started right here in Chapel Hill, and has had direct benefits close to home. People are taking notice and joining in the jam from all over, as well.

“These guys come from all over North Carolina,” said Santa. “I think it was two years ago, we had some guys who drove four hours down from the mountains, they were going to stay four hours and drive home. They had such a good time they stayed for six, and then drove home.”

With veterans being wrapped in red, white and blue quilts and music for a straight twelve hours, it’s easy to treat the Marathon Jam as a jam session instead of a fundraiser. But the fundraising part of the experience is essential, and pledges and donations are taken very seriously. After all, the money is going to a worthy cause.
“If you’re military, say you’re at Ft. Bragg and you get hurt in some way … you have an extended convalesce, hotel rooms can cost $200 a night up there,” said Santa. “A long term illness can devastate savings. Fisher House is a place where all your spouse or significant other has to do is show military ID and hospital paperwork, and you stay for free. Room and board for as long as you need. It’s a great place and it’s why I promised Laurie $10,000 a year.”