A first-ever and soon to be annual fundraiser for Puppy Jake Foundation, an organization which places service dogs in the hands of wounded veterans, occurred at the Lake Robbins Ballroom on Saturday, Aug. 26. The 6 p.m. to midnight dance fundraiser was organized by Amber Rowley, the wife of a wounded veteran. After receiving a service dog, the Rowley family wanted to give back to an organization that changed their lives.
“This is my private fundraiser; it’s not supported by Puppy Jake, but I wanted to give back because they’ve done so much for us,” said Amber Rowley, organizer of the event. “We’re hoping to pay it forward to another wounded veteran by placing another service dog or raising enough money to place another service dog with a wounded veteran.”
According to information provided by the Puppy Jake Foundation, the program provides “canine companions for wounded veterans, such as those affected by amputations, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”
Animals are trained at ages eight weeks and continue up to 2 years, outlines the Puppy Jake pamphlet. From there, veterans are matched with a dog during a two-week training period.
“They have to do two weeks of training and they go to Des Moines and stay,” Rowley explained. “They meet all of the dogs on the second day, and then on the third day they meet the dog that was meant for them.”
The animal is selected after a series of one-on-one interactions occur between the veterans and dogs. Following the interaction, the pair is assigned.
The organization is funded on donations, another reason why the fundraiser was a need, Rowley says. To raise one service dog, it can take anywhere from $18,000 to $20,000 dollars.
“The one thing that’s obvious here is the cost,” Alex Lord, veteran and recipient told the crowd during an intermission. “These events are so important; it’s [Puppy Jake Foundation] done a lot for me and it’s done a lot for a number of veterans.
The Saturday event raised $2,155 dollars, bringing in a crowd of around 200 attendees. The dance event included three separate bands: country, rock, and big band.
During intermissions between bands, Rowley introduced two veterans who were recipients of the Puppy Jake Foundation. Alex Lord, Perry resident, and Scott Rowley, Linden resident, told their story.
When Lord first received his first dog, he realized the German Shepherd had not passed the training.
“After four months, I asked what to do and within hours, I had a new service dog,” Lord describes. “ Fundraisers and events we do like this are extremely important for us because I could tell you that my life has improved tremendously with this dog.”
Today, Lord is able to comfortably go out in public and attend public events such as UFC fights and concerts.
“I’ve been to things I would have never dreamed of doing due to my mental and physical injury that occurred during my service,” Lord said.
Scott Rowley, Veteran, now is able to control his aggression and emotions due to his dog.
“I’m already doing better,” Scott Rowley told the crowd. “The biggest thing I’ve taken away from it is how much Ray [service dog] has helped me with my family; my biggest problem has been my temper and anger taking over, and Ray helps with that.”
“I’m sure my kids appreciate having a nice, calm dad instead of an overly angry and sensitive dad.”
In a later interview, Rowley spoke on the impact Ray has had on her family and husband, Scott Rowley.
“Ray has just been amazing help to our family,” Rowley said. “We used to walk around on eggshells and now the dog picks him up when he’s starting to get stressed out and will kind of start distracting him by playing with him or he’ll jump on him and he’ll calm down.”
“It’s just been amazing.”
Following the speeches, attendees were invited to participate in more dancing, silent auctions, raffles, as well as a dinner.
“We had people of all ages so it was fantastic,” Rowley said.
Next year, the event will be held in June, and Rowley hopes it will continue to raise awareness.
“If we could direct people to check out Puppy Jake Foundation and see what they’re all about - it takes anywhere from $18,000 to $20,000 to raise on service dog,” Rowley said. “The more money we raise, the more dogs we can give away.”