North Star Academy Raises Money for paws4vets
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Posted by: Stacy Rader
“It’s been great having COWBOY around. He’s not a cure-all, but I find I laugh a lot more and have more good days then bad,” said Elise Hunt, a newly retired Army veteran with over 24 years of service. It is easy to hear the lilt in her voice and see the smile on her face as she talks about her newest family member, an 18-month-old black lab assistance dog named COWBOY who was given to her by the paws4vets nonprofit organization.
Students at North Star Academy, a free K-8 charter public school in Parker, CO, had the honor of meeting Hunt and hearing about her experience serving our country. Hunt shared the good and bad, openly discussing her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and survivor’s guilt as a result of her time serving in the Army. She also shared the importance of assistance dogs, their role in society, what to do when service dogs are around, the placement process, and some of the amazing things these animals can do.
The paws4vets organization established a Tribute PUPPY Program to honor our Nation’s heroes by naming future assistance dogs in their memory, and when doing so, all capitals are used to spell the dog’s names. Hunt’s assistance dog, COWBOY, is a tribute dog named after a former army officer and state department employee who was killed in Afghanistan by a suicide bomber in 2012.
“I lost a marine to a suicide bomber in Afghan in 2010 so it seemed almost serendipitous when COWBOY chose me. Taking care of him helps me deal with the fact that I couldn't take care of that marine,” Hunt explained. “He is very cued in to my needs. If I start feeling anxious he senses a rise in my cortisol levels (hormones produced when one is stressed) and presses himself against me. This causes me to focus my attention on him rather than my rising anxiety, which calms me down. He can also tell when I’m having a bad day. He starts to make a nuisance of himself, which makes it impossible not to engage, and I find my moods being elevated and feeling happier with him around,” Hunt said with a smile.
“We were honored to have Elise visit North Star and talk with our students about her experiences and the importance of dogs like COWBOY,” said NSA principal, Kendra Hossfeld. “Our students raised over $1,000 to support Elise and paw4vets. We held a ‘hat day’ and students had the opportunity to contribute donations to the organization and wear their favorite hat to school.”
The paws4people foundation is based in North Carolina and was established in 1999 by Kyria Henry, then just 12 years old. Their mission is to educate and empower people to utilize assistance dogs to transform their lives. The organization specializes in training customized assistance dogs for children and adolescents with physical, neurological, psychiatric, and/or emotional disabilities, and for Veterans and Service Members with chronic/complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and military sexual trauma. According to Hunt, interested recipients must complete an initial online application. From there, applicants who seem like a good fit complete an additional longer application to ensure they have the means to take care of a dog, go through a medical check and agree to continue going to therapy. Each assistance dog is valued at approximately $45,000 by the time they are trained, and one in 40-50 applicants actually receive a dog.
“I was very astonished by the amount of students who contributed to this reputable organization,” said NSA 7th grader Anthony Radke. “I was happy to hear that Ms. Hunt was able to get her dog, COWBOY.”
“Having an assistance dog is a small part of the overall recovery process,” Hunt said. “This program is so great because it’s bigger than yourself. Once a recipient receives a dog they are asked to educate other people, share our stories, and pay it forward by raising money to help the next person get a dog.” To donate on Hunt’s “pay it forward” campaign or to learn more visit https://paws4people.org/give/elise-hunt/.
About paws4people foundation
The paws4people foundation has 500 highly trained assistance dogs with one or more certifications providing support in areas such as mobility and psychiatric service, educational and rehabilitative assistance and therapeutic visitation. paws4people has more than 200 volunteers and has placed assistance dogs in 25 states and Canada, with nationwide consideration. More information can be found at https://paws4people.org/.
About North Star Academy
North Star Academy is an award-winning K-8 public, tuition-free school of choice located in Western Parker, in the Stonegate community. The school utilizes the Core Knowledge sequence, an award-winning character education program and a district-recognized model foreign language program to deliver instruction, allowing students to meet their highest academic potential. The school prides itself on the academic growth of individual students and has received numerous awards including the John Irwin School of Excellence Award, the Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award and has been recognized as a National School of Character. More information can be found at www.nstaracademy.org.