By Doug McPherson
Veterans have always held a special place in Metropolitan State University of Denver’s heart and classrooms, and that’s one reason it’s adding Freedom Service Dogs to its long list of charities for Roadrunners Give Back Day 2018.
“We consciously partnered with Freedom Service Dogs for our day of service because MSU Denver has a large veteran student population and we want to show our support,” says Gordon Loui, director of strategic partnerships and community engagement at MSU Denver. “We’re always concerned about veteran quality of life and their access to education, and because Freedom Service Dogs provides service and therapy animals to veterans, we thought this was a great fit to develop a service project.”
Loui expects at least 25 volunteers from MSU Denver (students, staff and faculty) to spend time refurbishing kennels and socializing dogs.
All the help is greatly appreciated, says Ryan Holman, volunteer manager at Freedom Service Dogs.
“As a veteran myself, I can certainly appreciate the connection MSU Denver is making with us,” Holman says. “To have a partner like MSU Denver that shares our passion and mission is an amazing opportunity for us. Not only does it take the load off our staff, who often oversee and care for up to 50 dogs at any given time, but it also gives us the chance to educate volunteers about our dogs and our clients.”
Holman says Freedom Service Dogs is a nonprofit that trains dogs rescued from shelters to serve as assistants for veterans and others with disabilities, including people with autism, traumatic brain injuries, cerebral palsy, spinal-cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“People with mobility impairment must overcome challenges for even the simplest life tasks, like picking up dropped keys or phones, opening doors, turning on lights, getting the remote control and transferring to and from wheelchairs,” Holman says. “The dogs become heroes to those with disabilities, transforming their lives forever.”
Holman says some dogs can be trained to wake veterans from nightmares and keep anxiety-producing crowds at bay.
“It increases their independence, so what was once impossible becomes possible,” Holman says. “Our clients experience a newfound sense of freedom because of their service dogs.”
He says other benefits include reduced anxiety, increased comfort and self-confidence in social situations, and an enhanced quality of life for themselves and their families.
Since starting in 1987, Freedom Service Dogs has created more than 400 dog-client connections. And each year, it rescues over 150 dogs in partnership with shelters in Colorado and surrounding states.
Freedom Service Dogs also offers lifetime support for each client — all at no charge, thanks to the generosity of its financial donors.
And though this site has recently reached capacity, there are still many other opportunities to give back, for veterans and other community groups, by signing up to volunteer by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, April 24. For more information about Roadrunners Give Back Day, visit https://events.msudenver.edu/rgbd2018. Questions may be directed to Loui at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Freedom Service Dogs, visit www.freedomservicedogs.org. Those interested in volunteering for or giving donations to Freedom Service Dogs may call 303-922-6231 or e-mail Holman at email@example.com.
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