Since I was a child I have loved World War II history. While the politics and battles still hold interest for me, I was always pulled to the culture surrounding the war. It was a time when heroes walked among us, but better than that it was a time when our country recognized and appreciated those heroes.
Today, we are still surrounded by heroes, but I am not sure how often we recognize them and appreciate what they have sacrificed for us. On April 3 at Quiet Waters Park we have an opportunity to do both.
Midshipman Ari Schiff, the youngest member of the Board of Benefactors for America's VetDogs, and Chelsea Tafarella are working together to present the First Annual America's VetDogs 5k Run/Walk. The event is to benefit our soldiers who have made such great sacrifices for our country.
America’s VetDogs provides service dogs to our wounded service men and women at no cost to them. The dogs are raised by volunteers who work to socialize and train the dogs for basic obedience.
They stay with the volunteer for 14 months before returning to the VetDogs’ headquarters for what the organization refers to as boot camp. Boot camp lasts about six months.
“During that time the dogs work every day with professional trainers to learn tasks, such as turning light switches on and off, picking up keys, cell phones, or dropped money, balancing, seizure detection, and of course guide dog work,” Tafarella said. “Each dog is different and we learn from the dog what career they will be best suited for. We also match an applicant to a specific dog based on their needs. Each dog is worth over $50,000 over its lifetime.”
The summer before his junior year, Schiff learned that the government does not provide service dogs to service men in need. As he researched the subject further he discovered America’s VetDogs and decided to actively support the cause. That year he raised $60,000 and presented it to the organization.
Since then, though he still raises money for the cause, he has moved into organizing fundraisers such as this one.
Because the race is in its infancy, there are currently only 100 runners and walkers registered for the event. The organizers hope to hit the 400 mark by the time the starting gun goes off on race morning.
“This is a family friendly event," Tafarella said. "We hope families will come out with their dogs (on leashes of course) and children and participate.”
But if you can’t make it to the event itself, each of the participants will be raising funds through a pledge drive. Contact Tafarella at Chelsea@vetdogs.org to learn more about sponsoring a walker or runner, or go online to donate directly at Active.com
Editor's note: The date of the race has been corrected. It is April 3.