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. If you would prefer our newsletter in a printable format, a PDF version of the Newsletter is available here.
Won't you help us serve those who have already served by becoming a Promising the Future Partner today? With your help we can secure the future of our Veterans, the future of our service dogs, and the future of Soldier ON.
Soldier ON Service Dogs, Inc. provides highly trained service dogs, free of charge, to qualifying Veterans diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). Each dog we raise and place costs the organization approximately $40,000.
We receive no government funding. We rely on the kindness of individual donors, businesses, corporations and foundations to help support our mission.
Just listen to the difference a Soldier ON service dog made in the life of one of our Veterans, in his own words: "My Soldier ON service dog has given me a purpose and a reason to do something. He gives me encouragement. Before I stumbled into Soldier ON Service Dogs, I thought that service dogs were only good for seeing eye or search and rescue work, however, they can do so much more. They are trained to pick up dropped items, turn on and off light switches, wake from nightmares, and lead you out situations where you feel anxious. I was not comfortable venturing out in public until I received my Soldier ON service dog. Now I have a buddy that helps me be more at ease and independent. He is my best buddy, my battle buddy."
Northwest Arkansas has an enormous number of Veterans that would benefit tremendously from a service dog. We have thirteen Veterans on our waiting list already. Without your help, there's no way that we'll be able to meet our local Veterans' needs for service dogs. Even a dollar a day could make a difference.
Promising the Future Partners will receive monthly updates on the progress of our dogs in training and Veteran success stories. Additionally, you will be invited to our annual Donor Appreciation Party and have the opportunity to meet some of our Veteran/Dog teams, volunteer puppy raisers, our Board Members and staff. Join today at https://www.soldieronservicedogs.org/Promising-the-Future-Campaign or call our offices at 479-521-9301.
Do you have a coach, boss, or colleague who you believe could do a lot of good for a good cause? Someone you would like to see take the plunge down our 1,000-ft. slip 'n slide for charity? Someone who loves military veterans and/or dogs?
Nominate them to be a Celebrity Slider at this year's Dickson Street Slide! On Sunday, August 26th, we're rolling out the slide again, and this year we need Celebrity Sliders!
Celebrity Sliders compete to raise the most money for Soldier ON Service Dogs. The top three Celebrity Sliders will slide against each other to kick off the event! It's easy, it's fun, and it helps a great cause!
If you would like to make a Celebrity Slider nomination today, please contact our offices at (479)521-9301.
Honoring and thanking military personnel all year long sounds like a "no brainer", but how do you actually go about doing it? Soldier ON Service Dog's "Alive Day – All Year" is a way to do just that for the military personnel who are all around us doing great things in our community: our coworkers, our friends, and our family members.
For a donation of just $50, we'll hang a special metal leaf on the Alive Tree sculpture located at the Soldier ON facility– a leaf crafted by a local northwest Arkansas artisan and engraved with the name, rank and branch/years of service of the military personnel that you want to honor. Won't you help us fill the branches of the Alive Tree? Order your leaves today at www.soldieronservicedogs.org/Alive-Tree.
For those who aren't quite ready to donate, there are still plenty of other ways you can help us help our local veterans.
We're always in need of volunteers in our office, at events, and around our facilities. Applying to become a Puppy Raiser is another wonderful way to help. It's a great experience for the entire family!
Hosting a penny drive at your school or a Jean's Day/Bring your Dog to Work Day fundraiser at your workplace are both great options, and we'd love to hear from anyone interested in hosting a third party event to help get out the word about Soldier ON Service Dogs. Donations in lieu of gifts for those with an upcoming anniversary or birthday are always appreciated, and if you would like to remember Soldier ON in your estate plan, please contact us.
Simply providing a service dog doesn't mean that our work is done. Even after our veteran-service dog teams graduate from our program, the services we provide continue. When one of our graduated teams needs additional training or education, our trainers are there for them, available indefinitely.
We'd like to offer our sincere thanks to the Blue & You Foundation for helping to make that sort of continuing education and care possible through a $1,000 grant. The Blue & You Foundation partnering with Soldier ON helps provide for this crucial part of our program's success. We are truly grateful. The aid they provide makes our mission possible!
We were thrilled to be a part of J.B. Hunt Transport's "Jean's Day" this March. Over the course of the day, the associates at J.B. Hunt Transport Services gave generously to the cause, making significant contributions to our mission of serving those who have already served. While they gave, Sooie, a service dog-in-training, showed off her skills and our Soldier ON team offered education on the important work that service dogs can do for those with PTSD/TBI.
For eight consecutive years, G.I. Jobs, a premier national resource for veterans who are transitioning to civilian life, has placed J.B. Hunt Transport Services in the top 25 of its annual Top Military Friendly Employers list. J.B. Hunt Transport Services has also been the recipient of the prestigious large employer Pro Patria Award from the Arkansas State Committee of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).
We're grateful to J.B. Hunt Transport Services for their longstanding partnership with Soldier ON and for the dedication they've shown to veterans in general.
Our 2nd Annual Hero Tales Hangar Party was extra energized, thanks to the strong showing of Soldier ON supporters, the work of committee chairs Angela and Jack Pestello, and this year's country music headliner Barrett Baber.
A genuine supporter of veterans and Soldier ON's mission, Barrett spent time before the show visiting with fans then offering a memorable performance including popular covers such as "Lay You Down" and "Walking in Memphis." Guests also enjoyed originals like "Kiss Me Hello" and "Still Stands," the latter inspired by the story of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Ryan Pirelli who was killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom in August 2007. The song was also featured in a 2017 documentary Danger Close by filmmakers David Salzberg and Christian Tureaud.
Mid-tribute, fans and Barrett himself were visibly moved when event co-chair, Angela Pestello, surprised him onstage holding a puppy recently donated to Soldier ON for service-dog training. Pestello introduced the puppy as "Baber", a name fondly decided on by the event planning committee. Following his performance, Barrett happily made time for photos and conversation with attending veterans.
Every year, the Hero Tales Hangar Party committee nominates a few local veterans who have served their country, survived and gone on to positively influence their communities. Veteran nominations this year included Gil Bloyd, Gary Profit and Ed Harwell. In addition, local quilting club Quilts of Valor, presented handmade quilts to three Soldier ON veterans.
For the first time, this year's Hangar Party also featured a live auction! Some of the top items in the auction were naming a Soldier ON puppy (future service dog), a private Barrett Baber concert, and even a songwriting and recording session with Nashville song-writer and music producer, Kenny Lamb.
It was a night to remember for Soldier ON and an opportunity to welcome several new supporters and friends.
Our next Hero Tales Hangar Party will be April 6th, 2019! Save the Date!
We are pleased to introduce you to two very valuable, passionate Soldier ON Service Dogs volunteers, Jack and Angela Pestello. The Pestellos met each other while both working at the Walmart Home Office in Bentonville, where Jack is a Senior Vice President for Private Brands. They have been married for three years and have five children. Their parents and grandparents served in the military, and their 22-year old son, Dante, joined the Navy, so they have a great desire to give back to our military community.
Jack and Angela heard of Soldier ON while attending the Dickson Street Slide in 2015. After researching the organization, they determined Soldier ON filled two of their prerequisites, serving veterans and working with animals. They've been supporters of Soldier ON ever since.
The Pestellos have been volunteering as puppy raisers for Soldier ON, and are currently raising their third puppy-in-training, Elvis, a handsome black Lab. When asked about puppy raising, Angela shared, "The puppy raising experience involves the entire family. Everyone takes pride in teaching the dog commands and helping with socialization."
Angela has recently expanded her volunteer efforts by helping to find new volunteer puppy raisers and working with breeders to acquire quality dogs for Soldier ON. These are not tasks to be taken lightly. Making sure the right individuals sign up and are committed to raise specially selected dogs is key to the success of the organization.
Jack and Angela both took a larger role this spring, when they signed on as co-hosts for our 2nd Annual Hero Tales Hanger Party– Red, White & Blue Jeans. They were instrumental in acquiring the evening's entertainer, Barrett Baber, and invited many of their family and friends to attend and support the organization.
It's thanks to the hard work and dedication of volunteers like Jack and Angela Pestello that we have been able to accomplish so much this year.
Yes, it is that time of year again! On August 26th (the last Sunday in August) Soldier ON Service Dogs will be hosting the 4th Annual Dickson Street Slide and Community Village with proceeds going directly to help raise and train service dogs for Veterans with PTSD or TBI.
For those who haven't heard about it, The Dickson Street Slide and Community Village is two big events in one!
The first half of the event is the Dickson Street Slide, a 1000-ft. water slide that runs from Collier's Drug Store to the intersection of Dickson and West. It's more than three football fields long and runs from curb to curb! The event starts at 9:00 am with the top three Celebrity Slider Fundraisers competing for the fastest slide time. Afterward, the slide is open for ticket holders to enjoy from 10:00 am until 8:00 o'clock that night.
The second half of the event is the Community Village located in the Walton Arts Center Parking lot at the corner of Dickson and West. The Community Village is open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm.
As in previous years, the Community Village includes a Food Zone with great food and snacks from local food trucks, a Business Zone where you can engage with businesses and organizations through fun activities while learning about their products and services, a Little Kids Zone where the little "guys" who aren't able to go on the big slide can enjoy a smaller version of the slide along with face painting and other fun activities, and an Entertainment Zone with performances from local groups and individuals.
This year, we're adding a whole lot more to the Community Village, though! We'll have a Health and Wellness Zone where you can meet medical professionals to learn more about general health, PTSD, TBI, and Suicide Awareness, a Touch-a-Truck Zone where you can get up close with vehicles like a Firetruck, a police car and motorcycle, an EMS vehicle, a boat, and various military vehicles, and we'll have a Competition Zone where you can compete in various "Ninja Events."
Mark your calendars now for August 26th, 2018 and spend the day with Soldier ON Service Dogs! It's going to be a fun and exciting day for everyone, and it's all for a good cause.
To purchase tickets or become a sponsor, call our offices at (479)521-9301. There are still booth spaces available in the Community Village, as well!
As always, we'd like to offer our sincere thanks to our proud sponsors. We could not do what we do without the support of the organizations below.