JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Firehouse Subs is joining Operation Orion to rally the community and raise funds for the local non-profit, K9s for Warriors. The group trains rescue dogs and gives them to veterans with PTSD or TBI (traumatic brain injury).
Customers from now through July 27 can stop in any of 31 Jacksonville-area Firehouse Subs restaurants and give coins or bills to Operation Orion. According to Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation Executive Director Robin Peters, 100 percent of the donations will go to K9s for Warriors.
It's easy to donate.
You'll see a "Round Up" poster at the cash register.
You can drop loose coins and cash right into a lucite, locked box.
You can also choose to "round up" at the cash register. For example, if your bill is $8.15 you can donate the change to round up to $9.
The bonus is the Weaver Family Foundation is matching all donations. If you drop a $10 bill in the box at Firehouse Subs, you'll actually be giving $20.
Peters says she's been "amazed" to see how the custom-trained service dogs help our veterans return to a "normal life."
The dogs, for example, are trained to follow a one-word command -- "cover" -- when a warrior is out in public and is nervous about strangers surprising him from behind. The dogs crisply square themselves behind the veterans or to their sides to create a buffer.
Veterans with PTSD typically do not like people getting into their own personal space. It can set off anxiety and panic attacks.
Sheri Martinez, a marine and veteran of an Iraq deployment, helped kick-off the campaign at a Firehouse Subs in Orange Park today. She says her dog, Lola, is with her 24/7. She credits Lola with giving her back her freedom, her independence and her life. Martinez says she was at "rock bottom" until she found the K9s for Warriors program.
The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has helped tornado victims in Joplin, Superstorm Sandy victims, first responders, and other worthy causes.
So if you choose to donate to K9s for Warriors, stop by a Firehouse Subs all throughout July and help with Operation Orion.
Right now the waiting list for veterans to get into the K9s for Warriors program is about a year. Operation Orion is trying to help the non-profit quadruple its program so more veterans can get help and go home with their custom-trained service dogs.
A new 17,000 square-foot facility has been donated to the group. It should be open later this year in Nocatee. The Operation Orion money will help them run the much larger program.