Graham Bloem co-founded Shelter to Soldier. He is a lifelong dog-lover, particularly of ones that come from shelters.
He's trained dogs for 20 years, to make them companion and emotional support dogs. About eight years ago, he met a few Marines who had rescued dogs from Iraq and Afghanistan, taking them out of the war zones and bringing them back to the United States to be rehabilitated.
Bloem and the other two organization founders recognized the power of dogs for love and companionship, and their ability to work as service dogs. Bloem had researched the staggering statistics of suicide among Veterans, which was the catalyst for launching Shelter to Soldier.
The dogs are hand-selected through an evaluation process and eventually paired with a Veteran. They go through nine to 12 months training of foundational obedience, and in addition, they are task-trained to meet individual needs. For example, they are trained to create space buffers, nightmare disruption, check the house, illuminate the house by turning on lights, behavior disruptions in panic attacks to help the handler reengage. Bloem says, "The core of all of it is a best friend that is a sense of safety and security that also has these incredible tasks to allow them to get back into their normal, everyday day-to-day that they once had and lost."
The Barnes Firm was founded by prominent attorney and military Veteran Steve Barnes (1959-2020), and is now led by his brother, Richard Barnes. The cause is important to the firm and has an active interest in supporting. The Barnes Firm recently made a $45,000 donation to Shelter to Soldier.
"This donation is a very impactful moment for all of us at The Barnes Firm, especially in light of all that is happening in our country and the world," said Richard Barnes. "Our amazing team of attorneys and professional staff is thrilled to step up for a cause like this, and we look forward to watching the training process unfold over the coming months. As a dog lover and supporter of our military service members, I'm personally excited to meet the selected dogs and veterans that this contribution will positively impact."
Based on the size of the donation being made, The Barnes Firm has pursued Shelter to Soldier's Red Star Sponsorship level, which is a collaborative offering that this contribution amount will cover the cost of supporting three separate dogs and veterans throughout the entire 12-to-18-month training program. Such cost coverage includes adoption fees, housing, medical care, grooming, food, treats, training and equipment, bedding, toys, testing, handling training, service dog equipment and documents, and materials for the veteran recipient and service dog pairing. This commitment concludes with the eventual placement of the selected dog with a post-9/11 combat veteran suffering from PTSD and/or TBI and a related ceremony to celebrate the occasion.
About Shelter to Soldier
Shelter to Soldier is a California-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that adopts dogs from local shelters and trains them to become psychiatric service dogs for post-9/11 combat veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or other psychological injuries. Shelter to Soldier Co-Founder, Graham Bloem is the recipient of the American Red Cross Real Heroes Award, 10News Leadership Award, CBS8 News Change It Up Award, Honeywell Life Safety Award, and the 2016 Waggy Award for Animal Welfare.
Additionally, Shelter to Soldier is a gold participant of GuideStar and accredited by the Patriot's Initiative. To learn more about veteran-support services provided by STS, visit www.sheltertosolider.org.
About The Barnes Firm
The Barnes Firm has experienced personal injury attorneys who focus exclusively on accident cases including, but not limited to, auto/motorcycle, construction/workplace and mesothelioma/medical injuries. The attorneys at the firm have helped thousands of injured victims recover millions of dollars through their personal injury claims. The firm has locations in California and New York, with offices in San Diego, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Buffalo, Rochester, New York City, and Long Island. For more information, visit www.TheBarnesFirm.com or call 1-800-800-0000.
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