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Free pool fence eases wounded Iraq veteran's mind

April 18, 2008

Erick Castro of southwest Phoenix lost a leg in Iraq. Every day Castro walks up and down the stairs of his two-story house. Three days a week Castro walks long distances to his classes at Arizona State University in Tempe.

But until this week, the former U.S. Army sergeant feared his young son Xavier would run beyond his grasp and into the family's unfenced pool and drown.

"We don't take him outside as much as we should to run around on the grass," said Castro. "I didn't want to get distracted and have him chase a toy into the pool. I can't run and chase him like other dads can."

This week, Ironman Pool Fence installed a flat black, 66-foot-long pool fence with a magnetic-latch gate, at the home near 83rd Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road.

Jim Gemmell, president of Ironman, said the retail price, with tax, for the fence would have been $1,931. But a Valley-wide adopt-a-pool-fence program donated the Castros' fence.

"This is a great program to help families who cannot afford a fence," Gemmell said.

Every other week, a committee of Valley of the Sun United Way employees reviews applications for free pool-fence installations. Castro's was just one of four applications approved that day in March. The committee didn't know Castro's left leg was blown off when an anti-tank weapon hit his vehicle in Iraq in August 2003. Nor that Castro received his Purple Heart from President Bush at Walter Reed Hospital.

Castro said he filled out the application honestly, with the most basic information. He has a child, an unfenced pool and a fixed income.

Castro said that when he bought the house, he and wife Liz thought they'd save to get a pool fence. Then realities of an active toddler made getting a fence a priority. Castro said he's grateful to the United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association and partners Salt River Project, Valley of the Sun United Way and radio station Mega 104.3 for the fence.

"Those guys came through," Castro said. "Now we can have Xavier play in the backyard without the fear of him falling in and drowning."

Learn more about the program at or 602-631-4843.

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
Sadie Jo Smokey
Copyright 2008 Arizona Republic

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