ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - A national organization out of Nocatee has received a major gift that will help impact nearly 200 veterans a year.
K9s For Warriors just opened up its new $6 million facility, which was completely donated by people throughout the community and parts of the Southeast.
Everything from the land, to the construction, was all given to the nonprofit.
It began in 2011, working out of a single-family home with limited resources.
Shari Duval started K9s For Warriors as a way to help her own son deal with his PTSD.
Since then, they have been pairing veterans with rescue dogs.
Before, they could only make five pairs a month; now, with their new facility, they will be able to pair 16 a month.
Camp K9 has apartments where veterans can stay to complete their three-week training period with their rescues.
In that time, they will get to know their new companions and also get used to taking the dogs with them in public.
They have access to a pool, workout facility and clubhouse with a full kitchen.
The executive director, Rory Diamond, tells Action News that it costs nearly $30,000 to match a veteran to a rescue, and that cost does not fall on the veteran.
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Diamond says they have opened the facility with hope it will gain momentum and grow.
Hugh Borchers was deployed twice. He says that after he returned, his friends noticed a change in his personality, and suggested K9s For Warriors.
He was paired with Guinness in October and says that he has noticed a change since.
“I’m not on medications from the VA. I made a conscious decision not to get on any of the narcotics or anti-depressants or anything
because I felt that I had an opportunity to find out if the dog actually did work, and he definitely does,” said Borchers.
He says Guinness responds to verbal commands, and he takes him everywhere he goes. He says Guinness eases his anxiety in public and looks out for him.
Now Borchers works at the facility with other veterans going through the three-week training with their new service dogs.
This year alone, K9s For Warriors will help more than 190 veterans, and save 250 dogs.
The website will give you more information about how the community can help, whether it’s an item on a wish list for the dogs in training, time or monetary donations.