On September 7, Austinites gathered in memory of former West Lake native and football standout Mark Fitzgibbons, a U.S. Army and Afghanistan veteran who passed away in 2012, for the inaugural local Heroes Rise fundraiser.
Hosted by Elizabeth Smitheal, Kathleen Seiders and Weston Lipscomb, the event and silent auction raised $12,000 for the national nonprofit Heroes Project, which provides assistance to veterans facing physical, mental and physiological issues as a result of being in combat. The night included live music by The Grain Elevators, led by front man Chuck Nowland, a teacher and golf coach at Westlake High School. Fitzgibbons was one of his students.
Fitzgibbons was a dedicated soldier and supporter of the U.S. Army. He enlisted in 2009, training and living in Italy. He left to fight in Afghanistan in early 2010, returning home for a short time before going back to the country in 2011. In an email sent to Seiders in 2009, he wrote, "It's an honor to go fight for my country, my family and my friends. It looks like I'm going to be part of the final surge in Afghanistan — what a privilege.”
Find more information about the Heroes Project here.