(CNN) — CNN Hero Dan Wallrath is ramping up his efforts to build mortgage-free homes for U.S. troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His group, Operation Finally Home, has built 17 houses to date, and 19 more are under construction.
Just this month, the organization broke ground on its first home for a military widow.
CNN’s Christie O’Reilly spoke with Wallrath, one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2010, about the unique way he and his group surprised the widow.
They also talked about a new film that reveals the hurdles Wallrath faced as the child of an alcoholic. “Deep in the Heart,” starring Jon Gries and Val Kilmer, is a true story about the struggles and ultimate redemption of Wallrath’s father, who has donated millions of dollars toward scholarships in Texas.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
Christie O’Reilly: Sara Wood, a widow from Houston, Texas, didn’t know that you had selected her to receive a home. How did you surprise her with the news?
Dan Wallrath: We surprised her during halftime at a Houston Texans game. We got there and we started talking to her, and she’s telling us about her husband and how big of fans they were. He was buried in his dress blues, but underneath his dress blues he was buried in (wide receiver) Andre Johnson’s jersey. We didn’t even know it, and the Texans had no clue.
O’Reilly: Wow. That must have made it that much more special. What was the moment of surprise like?
Wallrath: She just broke down, and it just tore me out. Tears just started flowing from everybody.