In 2012, Todd Smith started Hometown 4 Heroes as a basketball tournament. Todd couldn’t stand to see another of his fellow Marines take their own life after battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and knew that something had to be done to help.
Since then, Hometown 4 Heroes has grown into more events, like 5k races and fitness challenges, to raise money and awareness for PTSD veterans. They have donated over $5,200 to partnering charities such as the Wounded Warrior Project
and A Hero Foundation
. Their latest addition is Puppies 4 Heroes.
Puppies 4 Heroes sets dogs through an 18-month training process to prepare them to go home with a Veteran suffering from PTSD. To find candidates for the program, Hometown 4 Heroes refers to a list of local tri-state area Veterans. Families can also recommend individuals for enrollment. “Our board goes over their service record, if they have a Doctor’s recommendation, what their living situation is like, and then we determine if they will need a dog,” Todd explains.
So far the dogs are able to go through the $8,100 training program through donations or local sponsors. The training program takes as long as it does to make sure the dog can handle symptoms of PTSD such as depression, aggression, and traumatic flashblacks. Simply put, “they give the Veteran a sense of security and the battle buddy feeling they are use to in combat,” Todd says.
Rade, short for “Masquerade,” is the first dog to go through program. The adorable Great Dane has already met her new partner Cody for a bonding session and plans to go home with him in early January.
[caption id="attachment_100766" align="aligncenter" width="540"] Rade, Service Dog in Training[/caption]
We know the incredible bond and happiness between a pet and his or her parent very well. But the companionship between these dogs and their Heroes can sometimes be a matter of life and death. These dogs are helping to push these Veterans through to another day.
We were so moved by Todd’s efforts with Puppies 4 Heroes that we’ll be sending food, treats and other goodies to the next dog that finishes their training. To learn more about Hometown 4 Heroes and how you can donate, visit hometown4heroes.com.