Free home for veteran comes with surprise visit from racing legend
BY FRANK VAISVILAS Correspondent September 13, 2013 2:02PM
NASCAR racing legend Richard Petty presents the Wallace family with tickets to Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Joliet and with the news that a Bolingbrook home would be given to them. | Frank Vaisvilas~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 16, 2013 6:42AM
BOLINGBROOK — Megan Wallace couldn’t hold back her tears as she learned that the house she and her family went to see Thursday already had been given to them.
Her husband, James Wallace, 23, had applied for a mortgage-free home from Operation Homefront, a nonprofit group that has provided 185 homes to returning veterans since 2012.
Wallace served two tours with the Marines in Afghanistan from 2010 through 2012. He injured his shoulder pushing a door open while on patrol.
The Wallaces, with their 5-year-old son, Caleb, thought they were on their way for a final interview from Operation Homefront when they arrived at the home in Bolingbrook on Thursday. But parked on the driveway was the No. 43 Eckrich stock car that will run in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet. And they were greeted by NASCAR racing legend Richard Petty, who also presented them tickets to Sunday’s race, courtesy of Eckrich.
James Wallace said it is the first NASCAR race he will be attending.
“It’s great anytime you can help people, especially veterans,” Petty said.
Wallace was shocked when he learned the home was his.
“It still hasn’t kicked in yet,” Wallace said. “I’m overwhelmed.”
He lives with his parents on Chicago’s South Side but wanted to move to the Bolingbrook area to be closer to his job in Downers Grove.
“It’s a dream come true,” Wallace said. “Words can’t even describe.”
The 1,500-square-foot house was donated by Wells Fargo.
The home had been in foreclosure, and Wells Fargo manager Angela Vander Werf said the house has not yet been appraised because it’s undergoing renovations. Similar homes in the area sell for about $150,000.
Vander Werf said renovations will be complete and the Wallaces can move in by the end of October. The Wallaces will have to pay property taxes, insurance and for upkeep on the home.
Vander Werf said the company plans to donate $30 million worth of homes over the next three years to wounded veterans through nonprofit groups such as Operation Homefront.