The last few months have been a busy time for Soldier ON Service Dogs. Here's just a bit of what we've been able to accomplish, thanks to the incredible support of our local community here in Northwest Arkansas.
Tiffany Graves, Elinor Skinner, and Elise Burt.
Tiffany and Elinor are Professional Dog Trainers at SOSD, and Elise is Soldier ON's Veteran Program Manager.
This July, three Soldier ON staff members— Elise Burt, our Veteran Program Manager, along with Tiffany Graves and Elinor Skinner, two of our Professional Dog Trainers— attended the 2017 Service Dog Conference in Washington D.C., hosted by the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans (ASDPMV). The Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans is a non-profit coalition of service dog providers for military Veterans dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or Military Sexual Trauma. They work to help prevent suicides and improve the mental health of Veterans. Additionally, they help to ensure that best practices are used by qualified member organizations so that Veterans are paired with the most beneficial service dog, increase the awareness of service dogs as medical devices, and advocate for the increased use of fully qualified service dogs.
Attending the conference provided Elise, Tiffany, and Elinor with an opportunity to establish and develop relationships with the broader community of service dog providers from across the country, and the chance to spend a day on Capitol Hill meeting with the staff of federal legislators regarding H.R.2327, the PAWS act, including members of Senators Boozman's and Senator Cotton's office. Please, if you're interested in supporting the funding of programs to provide service dogs to Veterans diagnosed with PTSD, let your elected officials hear your voice about the the need for something like H.R.2327, the PAWS act.
On July 31st, two of our service dogs graduated from our program and were placed with their grateful Veterans. Sarge enjoys accompanying his Veteran to his full time job, while Maggie likes to go boating and to the store with her Veteran. Sarge, Maggie, their Veterans, and all of us here at Soldier ON Service Dogs would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped out along the way, whether that help came in the form of a donation of funds, in-kind gifts, or much needed volunteer work. We have high standards at Soldier ON Service Dogs, but Maggie and Sarge have exceeded our highest expectations. Not every dog is cut out to be a service dog, but when they make it through the program it is definitely a cause for celebration!
For the third year in a row, Soldier ON Service Dogs put on one of our biggest events of the year on the last Sunday in August, the Dickson Street Slide in Fayetteville. We turned over a thousand feet of Dickson Street from Collier's Drug Store to the Walton Arts Center into one giant slip and slide, held our 3rd Annual Celebrity Slide, and hosted a Vendor Village and Splashdown KidZone that showcased NWA nonprofit groups, businesses, and community services.
This year's Dickson Street Slide was one of our most successful ever, raising over $30,000 that will help provide quality, trained service dogs to Veterans right here in Northwest Arkansas. We couldn't have done it without major sponsors like J.B. Hunt, Tyson Pet Products, Zuru Toys, Walmart, iHeart Radio, KNWA, Mars PetCare, Potty House, as well as all the vendors, volunteers, the City of Fayetteville, and the support of our community here in NWA.
Mark your calendars now, because we're already looking forward to Dickson Street Slide IV on August 26th, 2018!
On August 9th, we received word that Soldier ON Service Dogs had been chosen by State Farm as one of 200 charity causes competing for $25,000 in the State Farm Neighborhood Assist® program. This was a HUGE opportunity for us. A grant like this would mean being able to bring more Veterans into our training program to receive service dogs. Only some of the charity causes chosen to participate would be receiving a grant, though. For 10 days, from August 16th to August 25th, the public at large was able to vote in support of the cause of their choice, and those votes are what determined which causes would actually receive a grant.
We reached out to you for your support, and thanks to the efforts of our friends, neighbors, family and the NWA community at large, on September 28th Soldier ON Service Dogs was selected as one of the 40 State Farm Neighborhood Assist® grantees. Thank you so, so much to everyone who chipped in and helped get us across the finish line. You may have made more of a difference than you know.
On October 7th, we hosted our 1st annual Fall Festival here at the Soldier ON Service Dogs facilities. We had pumpkins, mums, hay bales, apple cider by the gallon, food and live music all day, a chili cook off, a costume contest, and a variety of Wizarding World activities, including a Quidditch match between the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University teams. It was also a second chance to get a Soldier ON t-shirt for anyone who didn't get one at the Dickson Street Slide. It was five acres of fun, and we're proud of everyone who helped make it possible!
Often, we fail to truly acknowledge those that are close to us or those that have made a positive difference in our lives while they are alive. This tends to be particularly true for active Military Personnel and Veterans. Alive Day is all about taking a moment to honor the lives of those who have served or are still serving our country. It is about gratitude, acknowledgment, and sharing the stories of those still among us.
As the year comes to close, we are asking everyone in our circle to take a moment to celebrate the lives of any and all active Military Personnel or Veterans who have made a difference in our lives. Soldier ON has a Facebook page dedicated to Alive Day. Please take the time and not only give it a like and follow, but read the words left by those from previous years. The Holiday season can be particularly hard on Veterans. Many servicemen and women struggle with survivors guilt, as well as physical and mental manifestations after their time in the military. Suicide rates distinctly increase in the months of November and December. We hear from many Veterans that it seems like "nobody cares." Help us show them otherwise.
On December 30th, please join us for a special celebration to honor our Veterans. We've commissioned a tree sculpture we call the "Alive Day Tree." For a small donation, we'll provide a specially made metal leaf to hang on our tree bearing the name of a Veteran important to you.
Soldier ON would like to send out a special THANK YOU to our puppy raisers. These volunteers commit to a year or longer working with our Canine Program to raise and train puppies in their homes, following our guidelines for training service dogs, and attending at least one class per week. We simply could not do what we do without you, puppy raisers! You are the BEST!
If you think you might like to become a puppy raiser, you can find out more about the process on our Puppy Raisers Program page.
You can help Soldier ON place well-trained service dogs with Veterans in Northwest Arkansas by volunteering your time or donating today. We are always in need of volunteers in a variety of roles around the office, on the property, and at events. We welcome those with skills and abilities from all walks of life. If you're interested in volunteering or donating, you can apply to volunteer here, or make a donation here. Help us serve those who have already served.
We've been blessed with fabulous volunteers, donors, and sponsors. Our accomplishments are not simply our own, they belong to everyone who has helped Soldier ON in any way in the past. We could not have done any of what we've done without the generosity of our local community. Thank you from all of us at Soldier ON Service Dogs.
We'd also like to offer a very special thank you to all of our major sponsors, who have gone above and beyond in their support.
Angie Pratt, who started Soldier ON Service Dogs, grins as she tells the story about how J.B. Hunt surprisingly became the organization's founding sponsor. "Soldier ON received an email in 2014 that said, ‘Hello. I am with J.B. Hunt. We've been following your Facebook page and we would like to contribute to your cause!'" Pratt goes on to describe how J.B. Hunt has sponsored their biggest fundraising event for the last three years, The Dickson Street Slide. "They've been extremely generous," Pratt says, "and are a joy to work with. We are lucky to have them as a sponsor. Their organization is very committed to Veterans."
For more than 40 years, J.B. Hunt has believed in the importance of reinvesting in communities and contributing to corporate and social responsibilities. They have committed to hiring 10,000 Veterans by the year 2020. To back up that commitment they have created a hiring program called Hunt's Heroes. Veterans are supported along the hiring process as they transition into a position with J.B. Hunt. They have other programs that focus on Veterans, as well as women and the Latino population within their ranks. If you'd like more information on these and other programs, please visit www.JBHunt.com.
If you'd prefer to read the newsletter offline, you can download a PDF version of the Newsletter here.