Giving Back to Those Who Gave It All
guest blog post by Craig Christians, territory sales manager for Latham Hi-Tech Seeds
One lesson my mother taught me while I was growing up was the importance of serving others. She demonstrated “servant leadership” before that phrase was coined! As a result, I developed a passion for helping people and causes.
But it was one phone call that really changed my life.
I was driving home from work one night in the fall of 2004 when a friend of mine called to tell me about a young boy, who wished to go on a goose hunt. I learned that Ben was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor when he was 7 years old. He had been battling cancer about four years when I first met him. Although his body showed the effects of his chemo treatments, he always had a smile on his face.
Ben showed the love of God in his heart. While doing treatments at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, Ben was always concerned about the other children battling cancer in other rooms. His kind heart prompted his family to form the charity, Aiming for a Cure Foundation.
In Ben’s memory, I served on the Aiming for a Cure Foundation for three years followed by another three years with Cedar Rapids Iowa Chapter of Make-A-Wish Foundation. My involvement with these two organizations prompted another friend of mine to tell me about Retrieving Freedom Inc. (RFI).
My first visit with RFI co-founder Scott Dewey in 2013 was so moving. I was amazed by the positive impact a service dog can have on a wounded veteran and a child with autism. I was inspired by Chad Johnson, a veteran who openly shared that Retrieving Freedom and his service dog saved his life. It was at this point that I decided to support this great organization.
Just think of all the veterans who have sacrificed for our freedom! They have experienced things in life that I cannot imagine just to defend my freedom and my country’s freedom. Many soldiers return home from duty missing limbs or suffering from PTSD. I learned that 22 veterans commit suicide each day in our country because of the effects of war. It seemed the least I could do was help provide resources to help these returning soldiers find hope and the will to live.
If you’ve never before done so, take one moment to observe the bond of a wounded veteran or an autistic child with their service dogs. I guarantee you will be impacted the rest of your life, and you might even feel called to help. I’ve learned that by giving back, I receive so much more than you give.
Bred to Be the Best
My affiliation with RFI caused me to take notice of other service dogs. In 2013, I happened to be staying at a hotel in St Louis where a Seeing Eye Dog Convention was underway. I noticed there were all different types of conformation and temperaments of service dogs guiding their masters. It was at this time I believe God called me to work with Scott Dewey to develop RFI’s own breeding program.
My goal was to support the RFI cause by providing Labrador Retrievers with high quality pedigrees to produce future quality service dogs with structure, health clearances, temperament, and conformation. I searched for Labrador breeders, who raised dogs with Dual Conformation/Field Trial Champion pedigrees.
We were blessed to find breeders who understood RFI’s mission and were willing to place their genetics for a foundation breeding program. To date, I have donated 26 Labradors from these quality kennels: Kerrybrook Kennels, Yellow Rose Labradors, Ridge View Labradors and High Voltage Labradors.
Today we’re beginning to realize our goal of raising pups that can go into the RFI training. It has been gratifying to see other RFI supporters, like my colleague Jerry Broders and his wife, Kim, get involved with building the RFI breeding program. I have pledged an additional four placements from upcoming planned litters.
I’d like to personally invite you to join us as we Rally for the Cause on Friday, Aug. 19! Even if you’re not able to join us that day for the motorcycle ride around eastern Iowa, I hope you’ll consider doing what you can to help raise funds to train RFI service dogs. Latham Hi-Tech Seeds has become a corporate training sponsor, but individuals can make smaller donations. You could also become involved by serving as a foster parent for one of the puppies in training. Contact Retrieving Freedom to learn more!