Shelter to Soldier recently announced a generous donation from The Patriots Connection under the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation to supply turf to build five new pet play yards and one new training yard at the Shelter to Soldier training facility in Oceanside. The new training yards provide the Shelter to Soldier training team with ample space to observe “social distancing” during the COVID-19 outbreak as well as increase space for dogs to relieve themselves for potty breaks and a new training yard to increase the amount of training sessions occurring simultaneously. Shelter to Soldier is taking extra precautions to protect both clients and team members during the pandemic.
Shelter to Soldier (STS) serves the post-9/11 veteran population by providing psychiatric service dogs at no charge to veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and other injuries associated with wartime deployments. The national statistics in this category show that on average, 670,000 dogs are euthanized nationwide annually. Every day, an estimated 16 U.S. veterans lose their lives to suicide; and in 2018 alone, 6,317 veterans succumbed to suicide. STS has achieved significant results to help alleviate the burden of mental illness for veterans and provide a new purpose for homeless dogs, documented by success stories on the STS website at sheltertosoldier.org.
According to Kyrié Bloem, co-founder and vice president of Shelter to Soldier, “We’re tremendously grateful to The Patriots Connection for providing us with funding for the additional turf needed to create the expanded space to train the dogs we adopt to help our veterans in need. Our overhead to feed, house, train and clean our facilities continues to grow along with the veteran population who need our services, so we are particularly grateful that The Patriots Connection has stepped up to assist us in meeting the demand.”
Shelter to Soldier is fortunate to have a pet turf partner in Envirogreen, which has heavily discounted the product and installation for all of Shelter to Soldier’s turf projects to-date. Anthony (Tony) Gourlay, owner of Envirogreen, lost his son to suicide and has been a supporter of Shelter to Soldier for three years. Gourlay’s son, AJ, was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, a dearly loved son, brother, friend, and dad to his cherished dog, Gunner.
Bloem elaborates, “From the time of adoption, our service dog trainees spend, on average, 12-18 months in our care, enjoying play and training sessions several times every day. The yards at our training facility are utilized to not only exercise our dogs, but also provide a place to receive elite service dog training and learn very important task work that will one day serve their veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), insomnia, memory loss, hyper vigilance, mobility assistance and more. With this grant from The Patriots Connection, we are able to build new yards and replace very outdated turf that was there when we took over the facility in September 2017.”
Debbie Anderson, Rancho Santa Fe Foundation programs director, explains, “The Rancho Santa Fe Foundation is honored to partner with ‘Organizations of Distinction’ such as Shelter to Soldier. We, at the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation, believe it’s very important to support our local military, veterans and their families and we are very thankful for the programs and expertise of our grantees in addressing our communities continual needs, particularly as they support these individuals.”
For more information, visit www.sheltertosoldier.org and rsffoundation.org.