JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The nationally renowned K9s for Warriors program will soon be able to aid even more veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries.
The PARC Group has joined forces with Summit Contracting Group, Inc. to donate both the land and construction of a new training facility, where veterans from around the country can come to be paired with service dogs that will assist them in making the transition back into civilian life. Summit Contracting Group, Inc. will donate construction of the new facility, which will be built on nine acres of land in Nocatee donated by the Davis Family and The PARC Group.
"Words can't express how grateful we are to Summit, the Davis Family, The PARC Group, and all of the subcontractors that have donated their time, talents and companies to make this dream come true" said Shari Duval, president of K9s for Warriors. "This new facility will enable us to serve four times as many veterans and reduce our current year-long waiting list of heroes seeking our help."
Currently, K9s for Warriors is able to accommodate four veterans per month at its existing three-acre facility in Ponte Vedra Beach. Veterans participating in the program live on-site for three weeks in a four-bedroom, two-bath home while they are paired and trained to work with their service dogs.
"It's a key part of the program that they live here," Duval explained. "Warriors with PTSD remove themselves from civilian society. We help them re-enter society again; they no longer feel alone."
It's an approach that has proven effective. According to K9s for Warriors, 95 percent of its graduates are still paired successfully with their service dogs one year later, while 92 percent are able to either reduce or eliminate their need for anti-anxiety medications within six months of completing the program.
K9s for Warriors' new facility will build on the successful model it has established at its current location. Four, four-bedroom, two-bath homes will provide housing to 16 veterans each month. In addition, the new nine-acre location will feature a clubhouse with a fitness room, big-screen TVs, pool tables and computer work stations where veterans may keep in touch with their families. The grounds will also include an outdoor patio and a fishing pond, as well as an expanded kennel and dogbone-shaped pool for the service dogs, which are rescued from animal shelters.
"It has been a long process and a lot of work to get to where we are today, but we have had a lot of help getting there," said Marc Padgett, president of Summit Contracting Group. "We reached out to an architect and civil engineer along with many of our great subcontractors to help with the donation of the design and construction of this wonderful project. We were amazed at the response we received: After hearing the K9s for Warriors story and what they were about, we and everyone else immediately got on board and wanted to help in any capacity possible."
In addition to St. Johns County and the Nocatee Community, Padgett noted the project would not be possible without the assistance and support of numerous building and construction professionals, including Group 4 Architects, England-Thims and Miller (ETM), Adkins Electric, Beckrete, Trussway, JR Hobbs, Casey Hyman Plumbing, BMC Millwork, Gunner Houston Framing and Sears Appliances.
"We are very anxious to get the project underway," Padgett said, "and know it will be one of the most rewarding projects we have ever built."
K9s for Warriors expects to break ground this month on the new facility, which will be located in a secluded area of the popular Nocatee community. Recently named the 5th best-selling master-planned community in the nation, Nocatee is comprised of approximately 12,000 acres –60 percent of which is set aside as a nature preserve – located just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean and Florida beaches.
"We are excited to welcome K9s for Warriors to Nocatee," said Roger O'Steen, chairman of The PARC Group, the community's developer. "I know our residents are going to rally around this organization and the work it is doing to help our heroes make a safe and healthy transition back to civilian life. The Nocatee Community, Davis Family, PARC Group and the many technical consultants and contractors who have generously donated their time and resources are honored to support K9s for Warriors."
Duval noted that many Nocatee residents already volunteer with K9s for Warriors.
"We have local residents who come and exercise the dogs, and a dedicated group of local women who provide home-cooked meals for our warriors," she said. "We're looking forward to really engaging with the local community."
News of the new K9s for Warriors training facility comes as suicide rates among returning veterans are increasing. In January, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported that the suicide rate for male veterans ages 18 to 29 increased nearly 44 percent between 2009 and 2011.
"PTSD and brain injuries don't just affect our warriors -- they affect the whole family and the community," said Duval, who founded K9s for Warriors after her son battled PTSD after serving two tours of duty in Iraq. "The amazing results we've seen with our program motivate us to help as many veterans as possible. Our warriors fought for our tomorrows; it's only right that we help them fight for theirs."
Founded in 2011, K9s for Warriors is a not-for-profit organization committed to providing service dogs to wounded warriors suffering from PTSD as a result of military service. K9s for Warriors trains the dogs and matches them with soldiers, who participate in a three-week residential training program to learn how to work with their service dog.
For more information, visit http://www.k9sforwarriors.org.