The Doe Fund and East Coast Assistance Dogs Celebrate First-Of-a-Kind Partnership

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Program pairs veterans and at-risk youth to train service dogs for disabled veterans

Participants pose with Assistance Dogs

To celebrate their unique and ongoing partnership, The Doe Fund welcomed East Coast Assistance Dogs (ECAD) to their Peter Jay Sharp Center for Opportunity in Brooklyn on Wednesday. The joint program pairs veterans and at-risk youth to train service dogs for disabled veterans.

Known for their award-winning Ready, Willing & Able transitional work program that serves formerly homeless and incarcerated men, The Doe Fund welcomed the program’s youth participants and the service dogs they train to spread good cheer and acknowledge the positive contributions of the veterans, their youth partners, and service animals.

“We are so excited about this partnership because it makes such perfect sense,” said George McDonald, Founder and President of The Doe Fund. “Both our Veteran’s Program and the East Coast Assistance Dogs Program help veterans increase their independence and quality of life; by linking the two, we create a circle of empowerment for those who have served our country, ensuring that all veterans are able to live the rich, full lives they deserve.”

Since its inception in 2009, The Doe Fund’s Veteran’s Program has provided critical resources to hundreds of veterans, including transitional housing, counseling and benefits advocacy, education and transitional employment. The Veterans Service Dog Program allows veterans participating in The Doe Fund’s flagship program, Ready, Willing & Able (RWA), to train Service Dogs for disabled veterans as part of ProjectHEAL, an East Coast Assistance Dogs program that honors and empowers wounded warriors.

“As with the adolescents who have gone through our program, the veterans receive many therapeutic benefits from working with our dogs, especially invaluable to individuals struggling with emotional issues.” Said Lu Picard, Executive Director, East Coast Assistance Dogs. “Veterans feel a sense of pride and accomplishment at changing another veteran’s life for the better.”

ProjectHEAL puppies begin training when they are about two months old, and continue for about two years, progressing from “kindergarten” through “junior high” and “college”. By the time the dogs go to “college”, they know all the basics of Service Dog skills like obedience, retrieving, tugging, and hitting light switches. The trainers then refine those skills until the dogs are completely reliable and ready to meet with their partners. These specially trained dogs pick up dropped objects, open and close doors, pull wheelchairs, prevent overcrowding in public, interrupt nightmares and flashbacks, provide medication reminders, warn of approaching strangers and reduce anxiety and stress, all the while providing unconditional love and comfort.

The first class of trainers and puppies will graduate in May at a ceremony in Riverside Park.

About The Doe Fund
Headquartered in New York City, The Doe Fund is a $50 million, multi-disciplinary human services agency that helps 1,000 people every day to better their circumstances through programs providing paid work; workforce development and job placement; transitional, supportive, and permanent housing; drug testing and counseling; and comprehensive social and educational services. All once homeless or incarcerated, the “men in blue” of the organization's flagship program, Ready, Willing & Able, can be seen cleaning 150 miles of New York City streets every day, rain or shine. This paid transitional work is the first step they take toward self-sufficiency, and they complete Ready, Willing & Able with full-time, permanent employment, apartments of their own, and their sobriety. To learn more, visit http://www.doe.org or http://www.facebook.com/TheDoeFund, or follow @TheDoeFund on Twitter.

About East Coast Assistance Dogs
Founded in 1995, East Coast Assistance Dogs educates and places Assistance Dogs to help people with disabilities gain independence and mobility. Dogs are taught to retrieve items, open doors, activate light switches, pull wheelchairs, balance, brace and perform many other highly specialized tasks through the organization’s ECADemy Program. Each dog’s skills are tailored to the needs of clients, who have a variety of limitations in strength, balance, coordination and mobility.

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