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Leeds Central School supports K9s on the Front Line with $4,600 donation

K9s on the Front Line staff members Gina Blaszyk (l. front) and Linda Murray (r. front) pose with Leeds Central School students and their teacher, Jennifer Groover. (Photo by Rinck Advertising)

A Leeds Central School classroom conversation about service dogs has led to one of the largest-ever donations given to a Maine nonprofit that trains and pairs shelter dogs with combat-wounded veterans.

Linda Murray, co-founder and vice president of Portland-based K9s on the Front Line, visited the school recently to receive a donation check for $4,600 to support the organization’s mission to improve the lives of military veterans living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and/or a traumatic brain injury.

Students of third and fourth grade teacher Jennifer Groover got the idea to help a local veteran receive a service dog after seeing photos of the late President George H.W. Bush’s service dog, Sully, back in December. 

According to Murray, it costs about $3,000 for K9s on the Front Line to select and train a dog for the individual needs of a veteran. Veterans can also have their own dog trained to be a certified service dog. In either case, there is no cost to the veteran.

Murray said the school gift is one of the largest non-grant donations the organization has received in its three-year history. Half of the donation was collected through student fundraisers and contributions from the public, while the other half was contributed by Vermont pet nutritional supplement company VetriScience.

VetriScience also helped Leeds Central School friend and Army veteran Christy Gardner, whose yellow Lab, Lucky Tim, was named by students. The company surprised Gardner with a $10,000 donation that enabled Lucky Tim, who was born with bones missing in one of his front legs, to have a leg amputation surgery with a specialist in February.

Now five months old, Lucky Tim has visited Leeds Central School about once a week since his surgery as part of his training to become a certified therapy dog. Gardner’s goal for the dog is to work at an elementary school when he is a year old.

K9s on the Front Line has paired certified service dogs with veterans throughout Maine. The organization also has a chapter in Missouri. For more information, see https://k9sonthefrontline.org.

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