In late 2016, Adam Snow was struggling. Injured by an IED while serving with the Marine Corps in Afghanistan in 2010, the effects of a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress were weighing on him.
After working as a fireman, which only inflamed the anxiety he brought back from deployment, Snow was now transitioning into medical retirement. But without a regular job to look forward to, he was not adapting well to his new day-to-day life.
Then it came time for him to bring home Rushmore, the black lab the paws4people® Foundation’s paws4vets program paired him up with earlier that year. The program trains and places customized assistance dogs with injured veterans and active-duty service members like Snow.
“It was really perfect timing for me to receive him when I did,” Snow says. “He’s contributing a whole lot to me right now.”
Rushmore helps to anchor Snow in times of need, wakes him up when he’s having nightmares, and is simply there for him when Snow needs help.
It takes approximately two years and costs paws4people $36,000 to train and place an assistance dog with clients like Snow, making corporate support and sponsorships critical. Sponsorships include the cost of staff time, breeding, training, travel, food, veterinary, and other expenses associated with the dog.
After learning of the paws4vets program, RBC Wealth Management–U.S. employees on the East Coast set out to enlist the company in sponsoring a dog. While the initial goal was to raise enough money to sponsor one dog, in the end the campaign far exceeded that objective, sponsoring a total of seven paws4vets dogs. Additionally, a separate RBC Wealth Management fundraising campaign in the Dallas area, Austin and Oklahoma City helped to sponsor two more assistance dogs, bringing the firm’s overall total to nine.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 veterans die from suicide every day. Additionally, between 11 and 20 percent of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in the last 13 years have suffered from some form of PTSD or other trauma.
The RBC Wealth Management East Coast campaign, called “Help Our Heroes,” aimed to help veterans suffering from trauma, and to raise awareness of how widely the issue affects the veteran community.
Over the course of several months, employees raised money by participating in special events, and learning more about paws4vets through informational sessions with veteran clients who have had their lives changed by an assistance dog.
“Our wounded soldiers face many difficult challenges after selflessly serving our country,” says Pat Vaughan, RBC Wealth Management East divisional director and executive sponsor of the firm’s veteran-focused employee resource group. “I’m proud that RBC Wealth Management employees did their part to help our heroes by supporting a great organization like paws4vets.”
One employee did more than just his part to help. Bob Linn, a retired financial advisor in Rockville, Maryland who served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1966 to 1971, participated in one of the campaign’s informational sessions, and was stunned to learn just how strongly an assistance dog can impact the life of a veteran. Linn donated enough of his own money to the campaign to sponsor three additional assistance dogs, and, also covered the cost of one dog’s food for a year.
“It’s unbelievable what veterans have given up for us,” Linn says. “I want to do whatever I can for them.”
Golden retriever Kenan has been with veteran Adam Campbell for several years. Campbell served three tours of duty in Afghanistan and three tours in Iraq with the U.S. Army, and was severely injured in 2005. When he first met Kenan, he was still in a wheelchair, and the dog essentially acted as his physical support structure, helping Campbell to get in and out of bed, turn lights on and off, or get his shoes on and off when his legs weren’t working.
Kenan, also sponsored by RBC Wealth Management, has helped Campbell with mental health issues stemming from combat-related post-traumatic stress, keeping him grounded in moments of stress or anxiety. Kenan is specially trained to help Campbell mitigate his symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
“When I feel Kenan’s hair or nose, that’s a little reminder to take a breath and realize that I’m OK,” Campbell says. “He not only loves me, but he knows what’s going on inside me better than I do.”
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