Injured soldier receives grant from fund started by NBA owner

Updated: August 8, 2003, 9:04 PM ET

MIAMI -- An Army specialist injured in Iraq received a $30,000 grant Friday from the Fallen Patriot Fund, established by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to help cover costs of living expenses for families of soldiers killed or seriously injured in the war.

Spc. Luis Calderon, 22, of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, is hospitalized at the Miami VA Medical Center and does not have use of any limbs. Calderon is slowly improving from his injuries; he was taken off oxygen Friday, shortly before the afternoon ceremony.

It is the 11th grant given since the fund was established April 16, but the first to the family of an injured soldier. More than $165,000 has already been distributed through the fund, officials said.

In a statement, Calderon's wife, Darlene, said the grant would allow the couple to "start a new life." They plan to live in Miramar, northwest of Miami near Fort Lauderdale.

"This grant will assist us in the purchase of a home suitable for Luis' needs," Darlene Calderon said. "God bless you, Mark."

Cuban, in an e-mail to The Associated Press, said he was proud the foundation could assist Calderon's family.

"All I can tell you is that it's the right thing to do," Cuban said. "Army Spc. Calderon made an incredible sacrifice so that we can feel safe. ... We haven't done enough, but at least we have helped."

Brian Cuban, the owner's brother, was among those who presented Darlene Calderon with the check Friday.

Calderon was injured May 5 in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit. Calderon, who was assigned to the Delta Company's 4th Infantry Division, was destroying a wall with an armored vehicle. The wall collapsed and struck his head.

Calderon's long term medical prognosis is unclear.

"They're just very thankful for the foundation," VA Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Ward said. "It was a high-spirited ceremony and certainly lifted the family."

The fund was established as part of Cuban's charity, the Mark Cuban Foundation. Cuban, a billionaire, matched $1 million in donations made to the fund, which is hosted by Bank of America. The bank is also matching its associates' donations from $25 to $5,000.

The fund has raised more than $1 million from 48 states and Canada.


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