Shelter to Soldier, Recipient

Imagine staying hunkered down at home because going outside produces a severe anxiety attack that leaves you curled up on the sidewalk. Or imagine daily social struggles due to extreme difficulty visiting with other people. That’s the reality many combat veterans face. There is hope—real, live, cuddly, furry hope. By giving highly trained, rescued service dogs to veterans, Shelter to Soldier is “Saving Lives, Two at a Time.” And with drawstring bag giveaways, Shelter to Soldier is able to retain donors year after year. A new lease on lifeWoman kneeling with her arm around a large dog. She is wearing a drawstring bag imprinted with a soldier and a dog. After being adopted from local shelters and rescue organizations, Shelter to Soldier dogs begin a 12 to 18-month training program. These dogs are trained to become service dogs for veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Military Sexual Trauma (MST). To get to know their new best friend and help the pair succeed in life together, veterans take private, weekly one-on-one lessons with the dog and its trainer. These dogs provide unconditional love that helps each veteran recover and move forward. The program also helps the dog enjoy life to the fullest. Service dogs are often very costly, and many veterans can’t afford them, so Shelter to Soldier helps make sure veterans receive the countless benefits of a service dog free of charge. “She [Jade the service dog] has helped with a lot of the social anxiety; she grounds me during times I have flashbacks out in public. She wakes me nightly from nightmares. She has given me more confidence to find myself again and get back into shape, regularly attending the gym with me,” Chris Meyer-Ontiveros, US ARMY veteran, said. Other Shelter to Soldier dogs are trained as emotional support animals (ESAs) for active-duty military and veterans. The organization deploys its Shelter to Soldier Canine Ambassadors, which are a team of certified therapy dogs, and their volunteer handlers who provide visits of love and comfort to local military, veterans and their families. Easily retaining donors with drawstring bag giveaways Twice a year, Shelter to Soldier holds a big fundraiser—Be the Light Gala in August and the Saving Lives, One Swing at a Time golf tournament in April. At both fundraisers, attendees are given a swag bag filled with items. Thanks to a 4imprint one by one® grant, Shelter to Soldier was able to order drawstring bag giveaways to use as swag bags. “We’ve placed over 50 service dogs since we started in 2021. One hundred percent of our service dogs are rescues. The drawstring bags help us reach our fundraising goals at our events. At our last fundraiser, we raised $93,000 net. It was really exciting. Everyone’s contributions add up, and the bags go a long way for donor retention,” Kyrié Bloem, cofounder and vice-president of Shelter to Soldier, said. To learn more about Shelter to Soldier’s life-saving mission, visit or find them on social media at @sheltertosoldier.

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