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Realtors help victim families feel at home again

By Peter G. Chronis
Denver Post Staff Writer

Jan. 13 - LITTLETON - The father of paralyzed Columbine High School senior Anne Marie Hochhalter opened the family's new home to the media Wednesday, bearing a message of hope and gratitude to the many strangers who've helped since last April's shootings.

A harp - presented to the girl by a national harpists' association - stood in the living room, silent testimony to the earthly angels who have rushed to the family's side.

Ted Hochhalter thanked the Colorado Association of Realtors, which helped fund the move to a home that's easier for Anne Marie, 17, to navigate in her wheelchair. And he also thanked the many others who helped make the home wheelchair accessible, providing labor and materials. He said he couldn't begin to name them all out of fear of forgetting someone.

Realtor Marilyn Gillmore helped the Hochhalters find a ranch-style home with a walk-out basement.

Ted Hochhalter described the efforts as "absolutely overwhelming . . . Words don't begin to describe the gratitude we have to all the organizations" that contributed materials, labor, "thoughts and prayers."

Hochhalter noted the home in the 7000 block of South Lewis Court needed "almost a complete remodel" for Anne Marie's needs, from new hardwood flooring on the main level to a chairlift that takes her down to her physical therapy area. Her brother Nathan, 15, also a Columbine student, has his bedroom on the lower level.

Jerry McGuire, president of the Colorado Association of Realtors, said that "probably most of you know that the Realtor organization is always concerned about communities and schools. We try to be supportive in issues that deal with communities and schools." "Shortly after the tragedy, we met (to decide) if there was something we might do" to help Columbine victims. Although "just throwing money" at a problem made no sense, the Realtors also recognized the problems the families faced would require money, he said.

The Realtors looked at several areas in which they might help and decided to initially focus on "victims with housing problems." Two families were identified - the Hochhalters and the family of Lance Kirklin, 16, who was severely wounded by a shotgun blast to the face.

The Realtors agreed to provide funding to help Lance and his father, Mike, rent a home in the 7500 block of South Depew Street and to assist the Hochhalters to "move to a home that would support a wheelchair lifestyle." McGuire said the Realtors hope to eventually help the Kirklins buy their own home.

The Realtors also said they hope to raise enough money to reduce the mortgage payments on the new Hochhalter home, now about double the family's previous payments. Despite her wounds, Anne Marie will graduate from Columbine this year and intends to go to college, Hochhalter said. Anne Marie has recovered a "significant amount of her muscle activity," he said, although cautioning that he didn't want to give a false impression - rehabilitation will be a long process.

"Our belief has always been that someday she will walk again - we will not give up on that," he said.

For additional information, contact the Colorado Association of Realtors, 303-790-7099.

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