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 said. “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, employees at RBC Wealth Management-U.S. set out to enlist the company in sponsoring a dog. While the firm’s campaign initially sought to raise enough money to sponsor one dog, in the end the campaign far exceeded its goal. Today, Rushmore is one of four paws4vets dogs sponsored by RBC Wealth Management-U.S.
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 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 at the firm 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,” said 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. Rockville, Maryland financial advisor Bob Linn, 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. Bob donated $36,000 of his own money to the campaign, enough to sponsor a yellow lab named Ranger and his veteran partner, and to provide a client scholarship for the veteran’s pay-it-forward campaign
“It’s unbelievable what veterans have given up for us,” Linn said. “I want to do whatever I can for them.”
Golden retriever Kenan has been with veteran Adam Campbell for four and a half 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.
© 2014 Joan Brady
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 said. “He not only loves me, but he knows what’s going on inside me better than I do.”
The RBC Wealth Management campaign also sponsored a fourth dog, named Rosey, who recently “bumped,” or chose, her human partner in December. Like Kenan, Ranger and Rushmore she’ll eventually go to live with her veteran, who also suffers from post-traumatic stress, hearing loss and chronic lower back injury. Rosey will be there for her human when he needs her, just like Rushmore has been there for Snow in the first few weeks that the two have lived together.
“When Rushmore is there, and I can pet him and talk to him,” Snow says, “I know that in time, each day will get a little bit easier.”