April, from Fort Walton Beach, is a recent graduate from the K9s For Warriors program out of Ponte Vedra, FL. Her service dog was sponsored by NFL quarterback Drew Brees. This is a wonderful story and just in time for Service Dog awareness month in September.
Fort Walton Beach Veteran Receives Service Dog From National Nonprofit
Sponsored By NFL Quarterback Drew Brees
(Ponte Vedra, FL)– US Air Force veteran TSgt April Sandlin of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, graduated from the national nonprofit K9s For Warriors with German shepherd mix Brees, who was sponsored by Drew and Brittany Brees.
K9s For Warriors serves warriors who suffer from Post-traumatic Stress (PTS), traumatic brain injury (TBI) or military sexual trauma (MST). Sandlin stayed at Camp K9 for 21 days, where she received life-changing instruction on how to utilize a service dog to mitigate the symptoms associated with post-9/11 military service trauma. K9s For Warriors runs a dog sponsorship program, which gives individuals and organizations the chance to name a dog through a monetary commitment.
New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees learned about this charitable opportunity, when both he and K9s For Warriors attended Sean Payton’s 2015 Black and Gold Gala. Brees, a rescue dog, was paired to Sandlin in July 2016. The team obtained 120 hours of intense training together before receiving official service dog certification.
“My service dog, Brees, has already helped me with some of my symptoms,” said Sandlin. “I can feel a difference in my life. I am very thankful for K9s For Warriors and that Drew Brees was so kind to sponsor my dog. Some things in life cannot be unseen or unheard. I can’t forget those things, but my dog helps me focus on something different… our bond.”
K9s For Warriors is the nation’s largest provider of service dogs for American veterans with PTS. The organization operates from a nine-acre, state-of-the-art campus in Ponte Vedra, Florida, with the capacity to pair 192 warrior-dog teams per year. The nonprofit has been instrumental in the recovery of hundreds of disabled veterans and incredibly successful at preventing veteran suicide. Shari Duval founded K9s For Warriors to help her son, Brett, recover from his own experience with PTS.
“Our program has been so successful, with documented recovery from the debilitating horrors of war,” said Shari Duval, Founder and President of K9s For Warriors. “The need to help these veterans is critical and overwhelming. We must do more. Our plans are to expand our current program to continue serving our nation’s greatest asset, military men and women. Sponsors like Drew Brees enable us to continue serving our veterans in need.”
Shari Duval opened the non-profit in 2011. Duval learned first-hand about the struggles U.S. Military veterans face after her son returned home with PTSD following two tours in Iraq as a contractor. K9s For Warriors accepts active duty troops or veterans from every branch of the service and from every state in the nation.