GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -- Hats off to Shadowlawn Elementary in Clay County for raising $4500 for our new Operation Orion project. The goal is to give custom-trained service dogs to warriors with PTSD.
The Weaver Foundation will match community donations right now, and so Shadowlawn is actually donating $9,000 to K9s for Warriors, the non-profit group at the heart of Operation Orion.
Principal Nancy Crowder told students and parents at a huge patriotic rally, "I'm proud of you. I'm so proud of you."
The kids brought in stacks of pennies and dimes. Some even brought in their piggy banks and emptied them out at school.
Parents helped tape together paper chain links to represent every coin donated. The chains stretched up and down the roads leading into the school.
Active duty navy personnel from NAS Jax came to lead the kids in a Fun Run. The school family made big banners saying "Pennies for Paws" and "We Are Standing Up For Warriors."
K9s for Warriors has a waiting list a year long. Founder Shari Duval says that keeps her awake at night because too many of our veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trying to deal with PTSD but are winding up suicidal.
Dee Myrick is a warrior who served our country some two decades.
He says his PTSD pretty much trapped him in his "castle," that is, his home. In other words, the anxiety was too high for him to do ordinary activities from shopping to enjoying a UGA football game.
Now, though, Dee has a custom-trained service dog, Tiger. (Yes, Tiger has stripes!) Dee says Tiger has changed everything for him. Dee can give Tiger a one-word command, "Block." That immediately puts Tiger in front of Dee or to his side so people can't get too close to Dee and set up extreme anxiety.
It's life changing for Dee and other warriors in the program.
Operation Orion is working to raise funds to operate a new, larger facility in Nocatee. K9s for Warriors hopes to move into the 17,000-square-foot facility near the start of 2015. The land and building have been donated.
The new place, though, will require the operating budget to quadruple. Instead of 3 professional trainers, the non-profit will need 10 or more, for example.
But the larger program will significantly help the cause. So far warriors have come to the program in Ponte Vedra from 23 states.
Instead of giving service dogs, room and board, and K9 training to four veterans at a time, the new facility will be able to handle 16. The property will also have recreational areas for the veterans, many of whom desperately need to occupy their time and relax.
Operation Orion is encouraging groups, businesses, and individuals to donate.
Here's the direct link to K9s for Warriors: http://www.k9sforwarriors.org/
If you have a fundraiser, please let Jeannie Blaylock know. She'd like to feature your efforts on TV to inspire other groups. Her email is: firstname.lastname@example.org