RSF couple find mutual interest in supporting Shelter to Soldier


Rancho Santa Fe residents Chris and Rick Fink have embraced the nonprofit organization Shelter to Soldier in their charitable giving plans. According to Chris, “We’ve always loved dogs, contributing to Shelter to Soldier allowed us to both support veterans and help dogs that need second chances.” Chris elaborates, “The shelter dog adoption and training process provided by Shelter to Soldier is exemplary.”

What resonated in particular with Chris was the extraordinary work that Shelter to Soldier conducts on a continual basis to benefit veterans. She explains, “My husband and I were particularly impressed that the Shelter to Soldier organization was focused on local needs required by San Diego veterans.

Rick and Chris Fink

Rick and Chris Fink

Chris and Rick sponsored Keeta, the service dog through the Shelter to Soldier program and feel that they have made a significant impact on the personal life of a veteran, specifically Rey Canonizado, US Navy (Ret). Keeta was adopted from Labs and More rescue under the Shelter to Soldier Red Star Sponsorship. According to Kyrie’ Bloem, co-founder and vice president of Shelter to Soldier, “Keeta is a lab/pointer/pit mix with a huge personality and a lot of love to give. She has truly enjoyed our training program, and was very clearly born to have this job. She has great drive, loves following direction from her handler, and her innate loving mannerisms are perfect for psychiatric support.”

Canonizado and Keeta were a great match from the start. Despite a three-month setback in handler training due to COVID-19, during which time they strengthened their bond through Face time visits, they reunited and finished the program with determination. Chris remarks, “After we attended several Shelter to Soldier fundraising galas, we learned to appreciate the personal stories shared by the veteran-recipients, and we can see the wide circle of impact the dog has on the veteran-recipient who then becomes a better spouse, family member, as well as an appreciated member of society. This has been a completely wonderful and positive experience.”

It is estimated that an average of 16 veterans lose their lives to suicide every day in the United States, and in 2018 alone, 6,317 veterans took their lives. Shelter to Soldier is committed to making an impact on these devastating statistics by providing hope through the companionship of a psychiatric service dog who provides non-judgmental, 24/7 support and motivation to veterans otherwise debilitated by mental illness. These veterans sacrificed everything to protect this country’s freedom, and Shelter to Soldier is dedicated to giving back to them, fulfilling their mission of “Saving Lives, Two at a Time.”

Cox Communications will be the presenting sponsor of the 8th Annual Shelter to Soldier “Be the Light Gala,” which will be hosted virtually on Aug. 22 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Ticket prices begin at $35 for gala ticket link and advance to $125 for the VIP experience, which includes a four-course fine dining meal kit by The Fish Market with appetizer, salad, entree and dessert for two, plus a specialty Be the Light Cocktail kit and VIP Swag Bags for two, delivered to the guest’s home the morning of the event within San Diego County. Single guest VIP options also available. In addition, the few remaining sponsorship opportunities include elevated exposure with an anticipated guest count of approximately 500 attendees. Event entertainment will include music by Ryan Hiller plus STS exclusive Be the Light cocktail instruction with a Fish Market mixologist — these festivities begin at 6 p.m.

Shelter to Soldier is a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Shelter to Soldier Co-founder Graham Bloem is the recipient of the American Red Cross Real Heroes Award, 10News Leadership Award, CBS8 News Change It Up Award, Honeywell Life Safety Award, and the 2016 Waggy Award. Additionally, Shelter to Soldier is a gold participant of GuideStar and accredited by the Patriot’s Initiative. To learn more about veteran-support services provided by STS, call 760-870-5338 for a confidential interview regarding eligibility. To contribute to Shelter to Soldier’s mission or the upcoming gala, visit to make a tax-deductible donation.