Local Veteran is on a Mission to Raise Funds for Service Dog

OconnorFive dollars seems like such a small price to pay for someone who has served six tours of duty overseas, but $5 could make a notable difference in one person’s life.

One hundred percent of the $5 per person gate fee to Enchanted Acres pumpkin patch on Saturday, Oct. 26, will be donated to Retrieving Freedom Inc. (RFI). Headquartered in Waverly, Iowa, RFI is a non-profit organization dedicated to training service dogs for veterans and children with autism. Dogs that exhibit specific traits are trained to meet the needs of each specific recipient. The dogs go through more than two years of training to meet RFI’s strict standards for a successful placement.

Retrieving Freedom is an organization that Latham Hi-Tech Seeds has supported in the past. When I heard that a fellow Sheffield resident is raising funds for RFI because he is receiving a service dog, I decided to help Andrew O’Connor reach his goal.

What could be a better way to honor this solider than by helping him reach his fund-raising goal by Veteran’s Day? Veterans Day is a federal holiday that is celebrated each year on November 11 to honor military veterans, or people who have served in the United States Armed Forces and were discharged honorably.

Go crush it 2“Calling Retrieving Freedom is one of the best decisions I’ve made to date,” says O’Connor, 36, of Sheffield, Iowa. He served 13½ years in the United States Army where he was an 11B Infantryman. He served six tours overseas: four tours in Iraq, one tour in Afghanistan, and one tour in Jordan. During a routine patrol on August 6, 2007, O’Connor’s squad entered a section of abandoned houses and began clearing them.

“I and another team member started to enter the back of one house when it exploded,” recalls O’Connor. “I was thrown 50 feet from where I was standing and was knocked unconscious. The rest of my squad was killed. I live with that guilt every day. I struggle with extreme anxiety and depression, so I’m looking forward to regaining some of my personal daily freedom back with Tilly.”

O’Connor has been training with Tilly for the past year at RFI’s training facility in Wavery. The pair has worked both in the training facility and in public alongside professional trainers. Tilly is trained specific tasks to meet O’Connor’s specific needs, such as providing him some relief in anxious situations. The team is set to graduate in the early months of 2020.

It costs from $25,000 to $30,000 to train one service dog. While service dogs are provided at no cost to qualifying recipients, O’Connor wants to give back to the organization that is giving him so much.

I am hopeful that together we can raise $7,500 for RFI! Feel free to dress in your favorite Halloween costume and hand-deliver your $5 contribution to Enchanted Acres pumpkin patch on October 26.

TillyThose who wish to contribute at a larger level are encouraged to mail their tax-deductible donations to Retrieving Freedom, 1152 230th Street, Waverly, IA 50677. Please put “Andrew O’Connor” in the memo. Donations also may be made through RFI’s website.

“We’ve placed just over 100 certified service dogs, and our goal is to double the number of dogs in training,” says Scott Dewey, RFI co-founder and director of operations. “Your donation will help us help more people.”

Service dogs in training will be at Enchanted Acres on October 26 from noon until 2 PM. Visitors will have the opportunity to meet families that foster service dogs for RFI, interact with puppies and help with their training. A 30-minute service dog demonstration will be held at 1 PM.

In celebration of our upcoming puppy party at my pumpkin patch, I’m sharing a recipe for Peanut Butter Puppy Chow that I got a years ago from a woman in my church circle. Maybe making puppy chow will inspire you to host a bake sale to raise funds for RFI! (Click here for a cute DYI “doggie treat bag” design. Another recipe that’s been a hit when I served it at Girl Scout meetings is Pumpkin Fluff Dip served with Scooby Doo dog bone-shaped graham crackers.)

Butterscotch Peanut Butter Puppy Chow


  • 6 cups Rice Chex cereal
  • 1 package butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar


  1. Pour one box, or approximately 6 cups, of Rice Chex cereal into a large bowl like a Tupperware® Thatsa Bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan over low heat, melt together:
    1. 1 package of butterscotch chips
    2. 1 c. creamy peanut butter
    3. 1 stick of butter
  3. Pour melted mixture over the top of cereal; stir gently to coat the cereal.
  4. Pour two cups of powered sugar into a large Ziploc bag; then add the coated cereal. Toss gently until the cereal is evenly coated with powdered sugar.
  5. Enjoy! You could add a cup or so of salted peanuts. If you’re a fan of Scotch-a-Roos, try adding a cup of chocolate chips.