It’s that season when we're all thinking about some of our favorite things from the past year, like in Julie Andrews’ famous tune, “My Favorite Things.” We’re easily filled with warm, fuzzy feelings about the simple, yet significant substance of our lives, whether it be people, pets, pastimes, or brown paper packages tied up with string. Here at K9s For Warriors, we wanted to share our favorite things from the year. Join us as we look back with gratitude at all the wonderful “things” that made this year well worth remembering.
Here’s a list of 10 of our favorite things, in no particular order:
- Favorite Free Thing: Starting off the list with a bang: one of our favorite things was when we gave away a house to one of our warrior graduates – for FREE. Jacksonville, FL local businesses JWB Real Estate Capital and Corner Lot Development partnered to construct a new home, and then worked with us to select a warrior in need to be the lucky recipient. That warrior was Rick Smith and his service dog, Berkely. You can watch a video of his emotional welcome home here.
- Favorite Video: There were many creative videos made about our program this year, thanks to local news station partners, our sponsor Bayer, and others, but what takes home the cake – actually, what took home four Emmy Awards – was our documentary A New Leash on Life: The K9s For Warriors Story. It was produced by a multiple Emmy Award-winning director and film crew, so it was already destined for greatness. However, nothing could have prepared us for the accolades it received at the Suncoast Region Emmy Awards on December 1st. This film navigates through the lives of three of our warrior-canine graduate teams, going back to the beginnings of their military trauma, depicting how they finally found the light at the end of the tunnel with their K9s For Warriors service dog. You can watch the documentary and more, special release videos on Amazon Prime.
- Favorite Marathon: Ok, so we didn’t grab all our service dogs-in-training and run 26.2 miles (maybe next year), but we had a marathon of a telethon! Held on Veterans Day and generously hosted by local NBC/ABC affiliate station, First Coast News, this telethon was a 14-hour marathon event that featured stories about our program throughout the day, with our army of volunteers passing on the baton to take phone calls hour after hour. All in all, the local community’s generosity resulted in over $400,000 in donations! These funds are earmarked for our new mega kennel: a 100-run, state-of-the-art dog kennel which will allow us to save hundreds more lives of rescue dogs every year!
- Favorite “First”: After more than a year of planning, our new Gold Family Campus held and graduated its first warrior-canine class! The October graduation ceremony was proof of our program’s ability to successfully expand. We look forward to continued expansion into new territories, to turn more abandoned rescue dogs into life-saving PTSD service dogs!
- Favorite Warrior Quote: “A seeing eye dog is for those who cannot see. A service dog is for those who have seen too much.” David Castro & Hunter
- Favorite Rescue Dog Story: Our K9 Procurement Specialist, Debbie, puts it best:
“It was a hot day in August when we drove to Blackshear, GA to look at potential candidates. From the first time Glory saw us, she would not stop wagging her little, nubby tail. All the other dogs around her were barking and jumping, but not Glory. She followed us with her eyes everywhere we went. She wanted out of there. As soon as we started her assessment, she focused on everything we wanted her to do. Her happy little wiggle-butt was so adorable! She was determined that she was going to win our hearts, and she did!”
Now, Glory is happily wiggling her little, nubby tail every day with her warrior, Mario!
Favorite Art: As we get to know each of our warriors, we noticed that August’s class brought us an artist. Every day of training, we saw these enthralling images posted on Instagram under the account name OneSoldiersPTSDStory. That soldier’s name is Gayle, and she tells her story of living with PTSD in unique drawings that show ups, downs, and everything in between. If you have an Instagram account, we encourage you to follow her artistic insight into life with PTSD, and see how her K9s For Warriors service dog is now by her side through it all.
- Favorite Breakthrough: After years of study and anticipation, empirical evidence was finally published that proves our service dogs work! The research was conducted by Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, led by the lab of Dr. Maggie O’Haire. Here is just one of the many news stories that reported the breakthrough findings, and the news from Purdue's own College of Veterinary Medicine website.
- Favorite Community Event: Going on for seven years now is the Boots On the Ground Poker Run, hosted by the American Legion Riders Post 9, Jacksonville, FL. During the event, hundreds of combat boots adorned with the name, photo, military branch, and date of death of our service men and women are lined up in droves. As hundreds of motorcycle riders gather on the morning of the event, waiting for the “kick stands up” signal, there’s an airplane flyover, our National Anthem is sung, and then the riders solemnly pass by all the boots on their way out.
K9s For Warriors participates each year by providing volunteers to help with set-up and break-down, as well as having a K9s table, warrior ambassadors, puppy raisers, and a K9s rep to speak on the day of the event.2019 will mark the 3rd year in a row K9s For Warriors has been chosen as a beneficiary of the event.
- Favorite Thing About Social Media: The value of social media for our program really can’t be understated. As a nonprofit that doesn’t pay for advertising, social media is a powerful, free form of advertising for us. Specifically, our Facebook page helps us grow awareness, facilitate media opportunities, connect with new supporters, and more. What really surprised us this year, and made it even more valuable, was all the birthday fundraisers those in the Facebook world put on for us! Literally hundreds of compassionate people selected us as a charity to receive donations for their birthday. We missed out on thanking a lot of people because we were so blind-sided by the influx of generosity from this new, awesome social media tool. So, if you donated to us for your birthday, or anyone’s birthday, please accept this as our heartfelt thanks! We will do a better job next year of personally thanking all who choose to donate to our program for a birthday.
We hope you’ve enjoyed looking back on some very significant moments with us. For any part you took in supporting us, we thank you. Here’s to beginning a new year of our favorite things!