American Legion Post No. 3 in Findlay donated $6,500, and St. Michael the Archangel Parish $2,200 toward a University of Findlay-affiliated fundraising effort to sponsor a service dog through K9s for Warriors for a veteran in need.
The fundraiser was launched by Cpt. Louie Belluomini, a U.S. Army combat veteran who, along with his service dog, Star, is featured in the Emmy Award-winning documentary, “A New Leash on Life: The K9s for Warriors Story.” Belluomini’s challenges with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the acquisition of Star from that organization, are highlighted in the film.
K9s for Warriors is a Florida-based nonprofit that rescues dogs from shelters, and then trains and certifies them as service dogs to assist post 9/11 military veterans. Dogs who do not pass the certification process are adopted out to families by K9s for Warriors; they are not returned to shelters. Because of the animals’ specialized training and in-demand services, there is a 1-year waiting list for veterans to receive dogs. Belluomini is seeking to raise $15,000 to sponsor a dog. Thanks to the Legion and Parish donations, $12,930 has been raised thus far.
Once the fundraising goal has been reached, a K9s for Warriors certified service dog will be named Findlay. UF students working on fundraising efforts with Belluomini believe the name is important, given the generosity of the community. Members from the fundraising team will be invited to the Florida training facility for the graduation ceremony, where they will meet the service dog and the veteran who will be paired with the dog.
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In November 2018, Belluomini, with Star, spoke about his journey prior to a UF screening of the documentary that featured them. They will return to campus on Nov. 11 when a special Veterans Day screening will take place. Additionally, the other two veterans and and their K9s for Warriors service dogs also featured in the film will be in attendance. After the screening, the three veterans, their spouses and their service dogs will participate in a panel discussion hosted by Student Activities Board President Jimmy Burcham. Attendees will then be invited to stay for a meet-and-greet, and have the opportunity to purchase the documentary.
This fall program will be co-hosted by UF’s Wellness Program and Student Activities Board, “your source for diverse edutainment.”