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Kentucky Telecare





Freedom Calls

Upcoming Freedom Calls events:

To participate in a future Family Freedom Festival, please email with:
 - the soldier's name, rank, unit, and email
 - base in Iraq (currently only Al Asad Airbase, Camp Fallujah and Camp Taji/Cooke have this technology)

and for the soldier's family:
 - a contact person name
 - phone
 - email
 - and home city

Freedom Calls from Freedom Hall

On December 18, 2004, the UK/UofL basketball game was broadcasted to servicemen and women based in Camp Cooke and Camp Fallujah in Iraq, many of them reunited with their families via the Kentucky TeleHealth Network and the Freedom Calls Foundation.

Governor Fletcher, along with UK president Lee Todd and UofL president James Ramsey, welcomed soldiers and fans from the floor of Freedom Hall, which hosted over 200 family members to watch the game and particpate in private video conferences with loved ones in Iraq.

The game was broadcast to the military bases and the fans at the game were able to see and hear the troops on the giant screens in Freedom Hall. This began the first of several "Family Freedom Festivals" scheduled to link servicemen and women with their families in Kentucky.

Dear Mary,

My family and I want to thank you, Rick, and all the Telemedicine staff for helping arrange our teleconference with Josh on Saturday. The event was one of the most exciting things we have ever experienced. I cannot even begin to explain how we felt when we saw Josh up on the big screen in Freedom Hall. We were absolutely overwhelmed. Being able to see that he was OK was a great comfort to our family.I know that many people worked very hard to make the event a success- please pass this email on to those folks. Please know what a wonderful thing you all have done for all the families that were able to see and talk to their loved ones. Have a blessed holiday season. You all have certainly helped to make our Christmas very special.


The Family of 1st Lt. Joshua Wells

Story Archive

12/19/04 - Homefront hookup
12/18/04 - UK at the Half : Freedom Calls (audio clip)
12/17/04 - Ashley Judd Gives Five Stars to Governor's "Freedom Calls" Initiative
12/16/04 - Governor Fletcher's "Day for Heroes" Honors Young People in Uniform, Military As Well As Basketball
12/15/04 - Bob Knight Supports Effort to Connect Troops and Their Families
12/14/04 - ESPN's Vitale on Governor's Freedom Calls: "It's Awesome, Baby, with a Capital 'A'"
12/13/04 - Marine’s Wife Looks Forward to ‘Freedom Calls from Freedom Hall’
12/13/04 - Ex-Wildcat Star Praises Fletcher Administration’s Initiative
12/12/04 - War and peace
12/11/04 - Link to Iraq a big win for families
12/08/04 - Kentucky Telehealth: A Network of Promise

'Families at Home Experience Many Different Kind of Hardships'

Marine’s Wife Looks Forward to ‘Freedom Calls from Freedom Hall’

FRANKFORT, Ky. (December 13, 2004) — The Marine’s wife is recovering from breast cancer and rearing two boys while her husband is in Iraq, fighting the dark forces who do not want freedom to ring in the land once ruled by the tyrant Saddam Hussein..

Heaven only knows what thoughts trouble her in moments of privacy, but Stephanie Horne doesn’t complain. When you marry a Marine, you know what the deal is. Life becomes an exercise in bravery. The Marine credo is a way of life for those at home as well as for those on the battlefield. Semper Fi.

But on Saturday, if only for awhile, Stephanie will be able to pack up her troubles and smile, smile, smile. She will be able to see and talk with her husband, Andrew, for an hour before and an hour after the Kentucky-Louisville basketball game in Freedom Hall, courtesy of Governor Ernie Fletcher’s innovative "Freedom Calls from Freedom Hall" program.

Due to a telecommunications hookup involving ESPN, Kentucky TeleCare, and the U.S. Government video system in Iraq, about 20 selected Marines and Army soldiers stationed at Camps Fallujah and Cooke will be able to see and converse with their families, who will be situated in rooms at Freedom Hall.

That’s the private portion of the plan.

During the game, the troops in Iraq will be able to watch ESPN’s live feed, and the fans in Freedom Hall will be able to watch their reactions before the game, during timeouts, and at halftime.

"The children and I are thrilled to have the opportunity to see Andrew via the videoconference equipment of ‘Freedom Calls,’" said Stephanie. "Please express our thanks to Governor Fletcher and Rob Sprang for this unique opportunity."

Sprang, the director of Kentucky TeleCare at UK’s A.B. Chandler Medical Center, is the idea man behind "Freedom Calls." He took the idea to the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet, which quickly called it to the attention of Governor Fletcher’s office.

When the concept was presented to ESPN, UK, U of L, the Kentucky National Guard, and the Kentucky State Fair Board, everyone signed on immediately. Before the game, Governor Fletcher will visit with the families and join coaches Tubby Smith and Rick Pitino in sending holiday greetings to the troops in Iraq.

Marine Andrew Horne, his wife Stephanie, and sons just before he shipped out.The Hornes were married in 1992. Their sons, Tyler, 9, and Nicholas, 7, both are students at Tyler Elementary in Louisville. She’s an associate attorney with Borders and Borders.

Since both Andrew and Stephanie are graduates of U of L’s law school, there’s no doubt about for whom they’ll be rooting. For Andrew, however, the game will be secondary to the opportunity to see Stephanie live and in person.

Only weeks before he was shipped to Iraq, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had undergone chemotherapy treatments without his physical support. Thankfully, her prognosis is positive.

"I discovered it myself very early and it did not spread to my lymph nodes," she said. "I endured chemotherapy as a preventative measure. I highly encourage monthly self examinations and annual mammogram and ultrasound screening."

On the other, she and their sons will be able to see how Andrew is holding up under the stress of guerilla warfare in Iraq.

Andrew Horne, a UofL graduate, is a marine stationed at Camp Fallujah"We are very proud of Andrew’s service in the U.S. Marine Corps," Stephanie says, "but look forward to his return and to the end of the war. Andrew needs to get back to the clients and cases in his law firm."

And, of course, to his family.

The "Freedom Calls from Freedom Hall" initiative will serve as the Kentucky TeleHealth Network’s kickoff of "Family Freedom Festivals" across the state. The plan is to establish centers where families can go to communicate, via teleconference, with their loves ones abroad.

The Marine’s wife won’t be able to relax until her husband is safely home. However, "Freedom Calls" will help a little bit.

"We believe it is important for everyone to understand one of the costs of war," Stephanie Horne said, "and that families at home experience many different types of hardships."

Semper Fi, indeed.

young family members of servicemen UK vs. UofL

Homefront hookup
State Journal Staff Writer

LOUISVILLE — The Speer family sat with bated breath as the Kentucky basketball team hit three free throws in the last second to beat Louisville, but the event that drew them from Frankfort took place well after Freedom Hall had emptied.

The Speers, Jan, Don, 13-year-old Michael and Meredeth Durr made the 50-mile trip to the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center to see and talk to Lance Cpl. Matt Speer, a Marine reservist based half the world away.

He is a 22-year-old junior at the University of Kentucky serving as an MP with the Marine's Company A, Second Platoon, stationed at a detention center for insurgents in Ramadi, about 30 miles outside onetime rebel stronghold Fallujah.

After hearing about the group Freedom Calls' plan to bring loved ones of Kentucky troops stationed in Iraq to Freedom Hall to see and talk with them, Don Speer, a retired state employee now in charge of purchasing at U of L, immediately e-mailed his son to try to be a part of this event.

As it turned out, Matt Speer, a 2001 graduate of Cornerstone Christian Academy, had already put in a request to go to Fallujah to watch Saturday's basketball matchup. The ability to see and talk to his family and girlfriend was an extra-special holiday treat for the Marine who's been in Iraq since September.

When notified Wednesday that they would be able to talk to their son via satellite, Jan, retired employee of the Frankfort Regional Medical Center, immediately rescheduled a flight she had booked to see family in Arkansas.

our troops Governor Fletcher

Governor Fletcher’s "Day for Heroes" Honors Young People in Uniform, Military As Well As Basketball

"Freedom Calls" Adds Meaning to Annual UK-U of L Game

FRANKFORT, Ky., December 17, 2004 — The basketball players representing the universities of Kentucky and Louisville come from 10 states and four foreign countries. They come from big cities and small towns, from wealthy parents and those struggling to make ends meet. Their ranks include Anglo-Americans, African-Americans, and Hispanic-Americans.

But they all are Americans.

And they all have reason to express their gratitude and respect to some other heroes of their generation — the young men and women who have chosen to serve in the military and who now are in harm’s way in Iraq.

Governor Ernie FletcherOn Saturday afternoon, because of a unique initiative spearheaded by Governor Ernie Fletcher, the UK and U of L players will have the opportunity to entertain an audience far more important than the crowd of 20,000 or so that’s expected to jam Freedom Hall, or even the national audience that will watch ESPN’s telecast.

They will be playing for the soldiers and Marines stationed in Camps Fallujah and Cooke, especially the ones from Kentucky who will be able to both communicate with their families and watch the game courtesy of a special telecommunications hookup arranged by Kentucky TeleHealth and its director, Rob Sprang.

"This will be a day for heroes," said ESPN commentator Dick Vitale, "and I’m not only talking about sports heroes."

To many hoops-crazy Kentuckians, the UK-U of L game is Christmas come early. That’s how important the game is in the state, from Ashland to Paducah. It’s Blue vs. Red, Tubby vs. Rick, Lexington vs. Louisville. But this season the rivals’ common interests, not their differences, will be underscored by the Fletcher program known as "Freedom Calls."

Before the game, several selected Kentucky families will be brought to Freedom Hall and ushered into two private rooms in the South Wing. There they will be able to visit electronically with their loved ones in Camps Fallujah and Cooke, both in Iraq, through a telecommunications link established by Kentucky TeleHealth.

Less than a half-hour before the 12:01 p.m. tipoff, the families will be taken to the Freedom Hall court, where Governor Fletcher will address the troops on behalf of the commonwealth. The Governor will be joined by Lee Todd, president of UK, and James Ramsey, president of U of L.

The families and the troops will be able to watch ESPN’s live telecast. During timeouts and at halftime, the reaction of the troops in Iraq will be shown on the huge television screens in Freedom Hall. After the game, the families will have another hour to converse privately with their loved ones.

"This would be meaningful at any time," says Thad Jaracz, a former UK basketball star (class of ’68) and a retired Lt. General in the Army, "but it’s especially nice to do this during the holiday season. It’s awfully lonely to be overseas and in a combat zone at this time of the year."

Both UK Coach Tubby Smith and U of L Coach Rick Pitino have enthusiastically endorsed the idea, and both have talked with their teams about the heroes of their generation who are fighting terrorism around the world.

For Pitino, the war against terrorism is a personal thing. Billy Minardi, his best friend and brother-in-law, was a victim in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. He has honored Minardi’s memory by holding a holiday tournament in his honor and by naming the basketball players’ new dorm after him.

The "Freedom Calls" at Saturday’s game will kickoff an effort to establish calling centers around the state where families can come and visit with their loved ones in Iraq through telecommunications. More news will be available about this as the centers open, beginning in January.

As always, both teams will be playing for themselves, their teammates, their coaches, their universities and their fans. But this time, both also will be playing for a special audience in Iraq. An audience of unsung heroes who are doing the business of America in the name of freedom.

It will be a fine Saturday, indeed, to be a Kentuckian.

Governor Fletcher addresses the participating families. during the game participating families were treated to refreshments in their own room at the Fairgrounds

ESPN's Vitale on Governor's Freedom Calls: "It's Awesome, Baby, with a Capital 'A'"

College Hoops Icon Excited About Troops, UK-U of L Game

FRANKFORT, Ky. (December 14, 2004) - To ESPN mega-personality Dick Vitale, who has worked hundreds of college basketball games over the last two-plus decades, Saturday's Kentucky-Louisville game in Freedom Hall will be special for reasons that have little to do with "diaper dandies" or dunk artists or coaching legends.

In an exclusive interview with the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet, Vitale turned off his well-known verbiage and turned serious as he discussed the telecommunications hookup that will enable Kentucky troops stationed in Iraq to watch ESPN's live feed of the game, in addition to being able to privately see and talk with their families before and after the game.

"It's phenomenal that Governor Ernie Fletcher has a program of this stature in his administration," said Vitale. "Basketball always has been so important in Kentucky that the Governor is doing a wonderful thing for those troops and their families."

Before the game, Vitale, Fletcher, and coaches Tubby Smith of UK and Rick Pitino will be able to speak directly to the troops stationed at Camps Fallujah and Cooke in Iraq. At halftime and during timeouts, the reactions of the soldiers and Marines as they watch the game will be shown on the giant television screens in Freedom Hall.

"Anytime you can provide a little inspiration or a morale boost to the soldiers overseas, it's a beautiful thing," Vitale said. "It's awesome, baby, with a capital 'A.' I have unbelievable love for those soldiers representing the red, white, and blue in Iraq."

A former high school, college, and NBA coach, Vitale coached his final college game in Kentucky, when his 1977 Detroit team lost to Michigan in the semifinals of the NCAA Mideast Regional tournament in Lexington's Rupp Arena.

In 1979, he joined a fledgling cable network known as ESPN. As ESPN carved out a niche for itself as the nation's leading sports network, Vitale became a legend with college hoops fans around the nation. For years, he has been the most recognized, popular, and imitated personality in sports television.

The conversations between the families and their troops have been designated as "Freedom Calls." They're the brainstorm of Rob Sprang, director of the Kentucky Telecare program at UK's A.B. Chandler Medical Center. The UK-U of L game will kick off a program by which families and troops in Iraq will be

Vitale has spent enough time in Kentucky, calling UK and U of L games, that Governor Fletcher probably should ask him to file state income taxes. (Just kidding, Dick.) He loves Kentucky because Kentuckians love hoops as much as he does.

"Dick Vitale has been a great ambassador of goodwill for college basketball and for the teams in the commonwealth," said Governor Fletcher. "I'm happy that he will be able to share this special experience with us."

Vitale, who has equal respect for coaches Smith and Pitino, refused to pick a winner. However, he did say that he was particularly interested in seeing Shagari Alleyne, UK's vastly-improved 7-foot-3 sophomore center.

But the troops will be foremost in his mind.

"Every night when I go to bed," said Vitale, "I say a prayer for the young men and women who are fighting to protect our freedoms. Some of them are even younger than the players who will be on the floor Saturday, and yet they're putting their lives on the line every day. It will be wonderful to share this moment with the basketball fans of Kentucky."

largescreen of our troops in Iraq UK free throw attempt

"The General" Salutes Governor Fletcher for "Freedom Calls"

Bob Knight Supports Effort to Connect Troops and Their Families

FRANKFORT, Ky. (December 15, 2004) -- The legendary coach known throughout college basketball as "The General" has given a big salute to Governor Ernie Fletcher for the administration's unprecedented "Freedom Calls" initiative at Saturday's Kentucky-Louisville game in Freedom Hall.

"I give my entire support to Governor Fletcher and everybody involved in this venture," said Bob Knight in an exclusive interview with the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet. "It's a tremendous thing that his administration is doing."

On Saturday, the families of several Kentucky soldiers and Marines will be brought to Freedom Hall and stationed in rooms where they'll be able to have private conversations via a special telecommunications hookup with their sons and daughters stationed at Camps Fallujah and Cooke in Iraq.

Before the game, the families will be introduced at Governor Fletcher will speak to the troops, who then will receive the live ESPN feed of the game. During timeouts and at halftime, the crowd in Freedom Hall will be able to see the reactions of the troops on the arena's huge television screens.

"It's the responsibility of each of us," said Knight, "to do everything we can conceivably do to make things better for the members of our armed forces wherever they are stationed around the world, but especially in those places where they're in combat."

Now in his 39th season as a college head coach, Knight has 837 career victories at West Point, Indiana, and Texas Tech, putting him only 43 wins away from surpassing Dean Smith's all-time NCAA Division I victory record.

Although he's best known for the three NCAA titles and one NIT championship that he won in 29 seasons at Indiana University, Knight has a special reverence for the U.S. Military Academy, which made him the youngest head coach in the nation when it named him to replace Tates Locke, at age 24, in 1965.

One of the players he coached at West Point was Mike Krzyzewski, who has become a coaching icon in his own right at Duke University. All the Army players were special to Knight because of their character, their discipline, their unselfishness, and their devotion to their nation.

"Beginning with Vietnam, one of my players has participated in every U.S. military operation to this present time," Knight said. "I've received letters from many of those players thanking me for what they learned in our program. But they've helped me far more than I helped them. Their dedication in being at the front lines of America's defense touches me and makes me feel extremely proud."

A student of military history, Knight got his nickname because of his admiration for General George S. Patton. He's a voracious reader whose interests extend far beyond the world of basketball. He's one of the few coaches ever asked to speak to the National Press Club, to be interviewed on "60 Minutes," and count the likes of Pulitzer-Prize winning author David Halberstam among his friends.

During his years at Indiana, Knight became public enemy No. 1 with many UK and U of L fans. The only active coach to match wits with every UK coach since 1972 (Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino, and Tubby Smith), Knight has a career 15-18 record against the Wildcats, including 0-1 at West Point. His record against U of L is 3-5.

Although Sports Illustrated last year ran a poll in which the Kentucky voters named Knight as one of the chief enemies of the state, Knight has established close friendships with many Kentuckians, including former UK great Ralph Beard, businessman Harold Martin, Commerce Cabinet Secretary Jim Host, and television executive Wayne Martin of WKYT in Lexington.

"Over all these years, I've been pleased with the many kind things that people in Kentucky have done for me," Knight said. "I've received a lot of mail from both Kentucky and Louisville fans, telling me that they root for us except when we're playing their team. I really appreciate that support."

Known as the "Freedom Calls" program, the idea of using the UK-U of L game to connect families with their loved ones in Iraq came from Rob Sprang, the director of the Kentucky TeleCare program at UK's A.B. Chandler Medical Center.

Knight hopes that more states will follow Kentucky's lead and find creative ways to do something special for their troops overseas.

"I've never had the pleasure of meeting Governor Fletcher," he said, "but when I do, I'll certainly congratulate him for taking the lead in doing something uplifting like this for the service men and women in Iraq and their families."

Our servicemen and women from Kentucky on large screen Thad Jaracz and Governor Fletcher

Jaracz Applauds ‘Freedom Calls’ to Troops in Iraq

Ex-Wildcat Star Praises Fletcher Administration’s Initiative

Thad JaraczFRANKFORT, Ky. (December 13, 2004) — As a former University of Kentucky basketball star and a retired Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army, Thad Jaracz has a unique appreciation of Governor Ernie Fletcher’s "Freedom Calls from Freedom Hall" program that will provide a new dimension to Saturday’s nationally-televised (ESPN) basketball game between Kentucky and Louisville.

The ESPN feed of the game will be piped into the U.S. government’s video system in Iraq, and, in turn, the videoconference signal from Camps Fallujah and Cooke in Iraq will be transmitted into Freedom Hall’s audio-visual system.

In addition, for an hour before and an hour after the game, families of 20 specially selected Kentucky families with sons or daughters in Iraq will be able to use the satellite hookup to converse privately with their loved ones.

"I commend Governor Fletcher for making this happen," said Jaracz. "When you’re in the Army and you’re far away from home, you can get awfully lonely, especially during the holiday season. Believe me, this will really lift the spirits of our brave Kentucky troops in Iraq."

The 6-foot-6 Jaracz was a star player at Lafayette High School in Lexington. After graduating in 1964, he decided to attend UK and play for legendary coach Adolph Rupp. As a sophomore in 1965-’66, Jaracz was the starting center on the team that came to be known as "Rupp’s Runts" because he was the tallest starter.

On the way to becoming one of the most beloved teams in UK’s storied history, the "Runts" ( the other starters were Larry Conley, Tom Kron, Pat Riley, and Louie Dampier ) lost only one game in the regular season and entered the NCAA tournament ranked No. 1 in the national wire-service polls.

They advanced to the championship game in College Park, Md., where they were upset, 72-65, by Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso). The Wildcats slumped to 13-13 in Jaracz’s junior season, but rebounded to 22-5 in his senior campaign of 1967-’68, when they finished only a game short of returning to the NCAA Final Four.

After graduating, Jaracz decided to become a career military officer. He rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel before retiring in the early 1990s. His last tour of duty was commander of the ROTC program at Louisville.

For the record, the Cats and Cards never played during Jaracz’s varsity career.

Since retiring from the Army, Jaracz has lived in Louisville and worked in private business, mostly in the medical field.

The former player in Jaracz is eagerly looking forward to Saturday’s game, but the former soldier in him understands that the biggest winner’s won’t be on the floor. They’ll be in the private Freedom Hall rooms set aside for the families and in the camps in Iraq.

"I can’t begin to tell you how much this will mean to those soldiers," Jaracz said. "They deserve something like this. I don’t think it’s possible to do enough for them, when you consider what they are doing for their country."

Kentucky family meeting with their loved one serving in Iraq the state's biggest basketball event of the year

Ashley Judd Gives Five Stars to Governor's "Freedom Calls" Initiative

FRANKFORT, Ky. (December 17, 2004) - Actress Ashley Judd, the University of Kentucky's most famous basketball fan, has given a five-star rating to the big-screen production that Governor Ernie Fletcher has approved for Saturday's UK-Louisville game in Freedom Hall.

Before and after the 12:01 p.m. game, several Kentucky families will be able to converse with their loved ones in the Army and Marines who are stationed in Iraq, courtesy of a special telecommunications hookup arranged by Ron Sprang of Kentucky Tele-Care.

Speaking from Scotland, where she is vacationing, Judd was told about Governor Fletcher's initiative, known as "Freedom Calls.".

"I love it," said Judd in an exclusive interview with the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet. "Catching a live game on TV is thrilling and attending one in person is near holy. I can only imagine how much it will mean to the Kentuckians abroad in military service and their families, not only to have the rare chance at connection with one another, but to have that opportunity via the great sport of Kentucky basketball."

In addition to the connections to their families, the troops in Iraq will be able to see ESPN's live feed of the UK-U of L game. During timeouts and at halftime, their reactions will be shown on the huge television screens in Freedom Hall.

A native of Ashland and a former UK student, Ashley lived for years in the shadow of her mother and sister, who formed the mega-country-music duo known as "The Judds." In the last five years, however, she has emerged over the past five years as one of Hollywood's most popular leading ladies.

Her film credits include starring roles in "Kiss the Girls," "Someone Like You," and "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." Last year she also starred in the Broadway renewal of Tennessee Williams' "Streetcar Named Desire."

Whenever possible, Ashley's at courtside for UK basketball games, wearing her blue Wildcat shirt and waving blue-and-white pompons. Last season, when UK played Vanderbilt in Nashville, Judd had the coaching staff and team for dinner at her home outside the city and did the cooking herself.

Because of her obligations in Scotland, Ashley will have to either watch the game on ESPN or resort to one of her other devices.

"I can testify how much it means to stay connected during constant travels," she said. "To follow my team, I use TV, VCRs, DVDs, radio, newspaper, the internet, archives, family - whatever I can find to keep up with their players and their progress and to watch Coach Smith and his staff work their magic

Very young family member of one of our servicemen serving abroad Camp Cook was one of two bases that have technology enabling teleconference link-up

Lexington Herald-Leader by sports writer Jerry Tipton, posted 12/12/04

War and peace

While we media types roll out the military metaphors this week for UK vs. U of L, this season's Dream Game will distinguish conflict from competition.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher announced last week that 18 Kentucky soldiers in Iraq will get to chat privately with their families at the UK-U of L game through audio and video signals piped into conference rooms at Freedom Hall from Camps Fallujah and Cooke. The signals will travel the same electronic link set up to carry ESPN's game broadcast to the camps in Iraq.

The selected families will be able to use the link beginning an hour before tipoff until an hour after the final buzzer. During the pre-game show, commercial breaks, halftime and post-game wrap-up, Freedom Hall's big-screen televisions will show other soldiers watching in Iraq. This hookup will allow the soldiers to see and hear comments made to them from coaches, players and dignitaries.

The project was originated by the Kentucky TeleHealth Network at UK's A.B. Chandler Medical Center in cooperation with Freedom Calls Foundation, a non-profit group that places communication facilities at the front lines.

In a news release, UK Coach Tubby Smith said the exchange "will force everyone -- coaches, players, and fans -- to put the game into perspective. It is only a game, not a matter of life and death."

U of L Coach Rick Pitino called the hookup "an awesome chance for our soldiers to be able to communicate with their families around this big rivalry game."

Families enjoying the UK-UofL game servicemen from the other side of the world in Iraq brought to you on the Freedom Hall screen

Louisville Courier-Journal by Frankfort bureau desk, Tom Loftus, posted 12/11/04

Link to Iraq a big win for families
Teleconferences set at UofL-UK game

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Rob Sprang had a brainstorm — to bring Kentucky's top annual basketball game to U.S. troops in Iraq and let some families back home talk to their loved ones there.

Sprang, a University of Kentucky project manager for a hospital teleconference network, learned by chance about two teleconference centers that a nonprofit foundation built in Iraq for soldiers to talk with their families, and contacted someone at the group.

"I asked him if the troops were interested in sports, and he said they love sports. So I told him we could send them the hottest ticket in Kentucky — a great game and one that every Kentuckian over there would be vitally interested in," Sprang said.

Next he began coordinating with officials from state government, Kentucky's two largest universities, military officials and ESPN, the TV sports network.

The result was announced yesterday by Gov. Ernie Fletcher:

A week from today, during the University of Kentucky-University of Louisville basketball game at Freedom Hall, 18 Kentucky families will be given a half-hour each to talk privately with their loved ones in Iraq from facilities set up in the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center.

A separate video link will broadcast the basketball game live to troops at Camp Cook in Baghdad.

And live images of the troops will be broadcast before, during and after the game on ESPN and on jumbo screens in Freedom Hall.

"This will allow fans watching the game to see and hear the soldiers on the big screen TVs in Freedom Hall. And the troops in Iraq will be able to see, hear and feel Kentuckians' love, support and appreciation," Fletcher said at a news conference at the Capitol.

"Their Old Kentucky Home may be far, far away in distance, but we certainly hold our heroes close in our hearts," he said.

`A wonderful thing'

Families who will be talking to their loved ones in Iraq will be brought onto the court before the game and will stand with Fletcher and the presidents of the two universities during the national anthem.

But during the game, they will watch the game at a private reception, while each takes a turn for their private conversations.

Leaders from the sports and military communities hailed the move to give a patriotic flavor to the biggest annual event on Kentucky's basketball calendar.

Tom Leach, radio voice of the Kentucky Wildcats, said, "I'm astutely aware of how passionate the two sides are in this rivalry. So we will have at least one unifying feeling on the 18th of December at Freedom Hall."

Sprang, 47, said five of the 18 families had been selected as of yesterday to take part in the teleconference.

Rob Sprang met with Judy Rittenhouse, who will get to speak to her son, Marine Cpl. Michael Rittenhouse, 24. Sprang is a University of Kentucky project manager for a hospital teleconference network.Judy Rittenhouse, a health administration officer at the Veterans Administration hospital in Lexington, will speak to her son, Marine Cpl. Michael Rittenhouse, 24, a reservist with Military Police Company A of Lexington.

"The opportunity to see him for a half-hour is a wonderful, wonderful thing," she said. "Every day you live with the anxiousness of what's going on over there. As a mom, it's very difficult."

Judy Rittenhouse, Health Administrator Officer with VA, her son, Michael, is a Marine in IraqShe said Michael's wife, Sara, and other family members also will talk with him.

Sprang said he expects to get more requests for the link than can be honored next weekend.

But starting in January, the Kentucky Telehealth Network will schedule regular video-conferencing to link families who go to one of the 70 network hospitals across the state with their loved one in Iraq, he said.

The families chosen so far were found largely by "word of mouth" among the hospitals and their employees, Sprang said.

He said the private teleconferences won't cost taxpayers anything.

The major costs are the sending and receiving equipment, which already exist, he said.

The U.S. military and the Freedom Calls Foundation — the nonprofit group that built the teleconference centers in Iraq — cover the cost of transmitting the signals by satellite.

Sprang gave most of the credit for the effort to Freedom Calls.

When he learned about the group in early November, he said, "I knew immediately about the possibilities, so I called them. ... I realized I was in a unique position to get something done. The more I thought about it, I realized this was the right thing to do."

Once the hospitals and other members of the network embraced the idea, Sprang called Tony Goetz, a friend and former UK official now on Fletcher's staff.

"Tony then took it and ran with it. He had all of the close connections in the Governor's Office, the Commerce Cabinet, the National Guard and the universities. They all liked the idea and went to work on it," Sprang said.

participating families of serviceman brought to Freedom Hall servicemen in Iraq get treated to a telecast of the UK-UofL game

Kentucky Telehealth: A Network of Promise
January 9, 2005
Freedom Calls at Freedom Hall brings family members in Kentucky face to face with their family in Iraq.

Last month, moments before one of the biggest college basketball games of the year between the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky, a very special event took place. With more than 20,000 fans looking on, the large video screens in Louisville's Freedom Hall switched from the action on the court to the action in Iraq where American troops had gathered to talk live to their families via video conference. The powerful and emotional event, called “Freedom Calls from Freedom Hall” was highlighted on ESPN and helped to put the basketball rivalry in perspective during the holiday season. It also showcased one of Kentucky's hidden treasures, the Kentucky Telehealth Network.

The idea to connect families and troops during the game came from Rob Sprang. Since 1995, he has been the Director of Kentucky TeleCare, a telemedicine program based at the University of Kentucky’s Chandler Medical Center. Sprang was hired to grow the program and expand the possibilities of telehealth at UK. Today, Kentucky TeleCare is a network of nine rural community healthcare facilities and also represents a consortium of four interconnected telemedicine networks. Along with Representative Steve Nunn, Sprang led the efforts that resulted in the passage of progressive telehealth legislation in Kentucky, mandating reimbursement for telehealth encounters by Medicaid and private payors and channeled state funding to support the development of a statewide telehealth initiative, the Kentucky Telehealth Network (KTHN). KTHN now includes all three medical schools in the state and nearly 70 rural healthcare facilities.

KTHN is one of the first legislatively mandated statewide telehealth initiatives, and has become a national leader in the development of a cooperative statewide effort to efficiently distribute the healthcare resources of the state to every Kentuckian, no matter where they live. KTHN is overseen by a nine-member Board of Directors, and is led by co-project managers from the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. One of the most progressive components of KTHN was the development of four Telehealth Training Centers which oversee the day-to-day activities of the network, provide support for the network sites and drive new applications to benefit all Kentuckians. KTHN has great technical resources, including the Morehead Training Center Director, Rick Phillips. “Without Rick’s technical expertise his outstanding technical plan for the UK/UL game event, the event would never have succeeded. Rick put together a plan that allowed us to broadcast the game to soldiers in Iraq, put the soldier’s video onto the big screen in Freedom Hall and allowed Dick Vitale and Governor Fletcher to speak directly to the troops. It was a tremendous technological feat”, said Sprang. KTHN has also conducted live surgical broadcasts across the world, and Rick Phillips is expected to take videoconference technology on a medical mission trip to Ethiopia this month.

Since 2000, the KTHN has been a great resource for training, bringing the educational resources of the University Medical Centers to rural healthcare facilities across the state. . It has allowed the medical community to reach out to rural areas to serve patients who may not normally be able to have contact with a specialist or reach a regional medical center, especially in inclement weather as Kentucky has experienced this winter. The busiest clinical applications for telehealth are dermatology, pediatric cardiology, infectious disease, radiation medicine and psychiatry.

Other telehealth applications include:

 - Death with Dignity, a psychotherapy service to hospice patients that allows patients to organize themselves and leaves a legacy for their family.
 - Correctional health to provide prisoners with needed healthcare services without having to transport them to public healthcare facilities.
 - Bioterrorism training and disaster response activities, and the creation of PROACT (Preparedness and Response On Advanced Communications Technology). PROACT includes 20 selected KTHN sites that have committed to 24x7 response in the event of a disaster. PROACT has successfully completed several multi-state disaster drills with the CDC.
 - POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) based videoconferencing allows Kentucky to expand clinical and educational services into places that normally could not afford traditional telemedicine or did not have access to high bandwidth communication lines required for such technology, such as nursing facilities and patient homes.
 - School-based telehealth has brought physician care services directly into public school nurse clinics.
 - Mobile health clinics, equipped with telehealth technology, can deliver healthcare services across the state.

According to Sprang, the possibilities of the Kentucky Telehealth Network and the Kentucky Telecare program he heads are endless. "I would like to see telehealth move to every desktop, and become as ubiquitous as the telephone, but we are a long way from that. I would like to see that system integrate medical informatics, including radiography, labs results, patient history and all other pertinent healthcare information with the telemedicine system. Referring and consulting clinicians would have seamless access to all of the patient’s information necessary to maximize the patient’s care. One day, networks will blend together with easy interfaces that will allow clinicians from different states to share information, and “centers of excellence” will emerge to provide clinical support to anyone in the country via telehealth systems. In the interim, we will continue to make the best of divergent systems, and progressively move to a fully integrated system."

Governor Fletcher Serviceman brought to you via TeleConferencing
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