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PONTE VEDRA, Fla. -- Talk about a monumental effort from young students in St. Johns County! PVPV/Rawlings stepped forward to help Operation Orion raise money for special hands-free leashes and official vests for service dogs.

Just in about one week the students raised more than $3800. The Weaver Foundation will match that meaning their donation is almost $8,000.Congrats and a big thank you to PVPV/Rawlings!

Principal Kathleen Furness says she is so proud of her students' efforts. She says they understand the cost of freedom and they wanted to help with great enthusiasm.

Operation Orion is our new project to help the non-profit, K9s for Warriors. The group, headquartered in Ponte Vedra, takes veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq. The warriors must have a medical diagnosis of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) or TBI (traumatic brain injury) or be victims of MST (military sexual trauma).K9s for Warriors has been given land in Nocatee to build a new 17,000 square foot facility. The building has been donated, as well.

Operation Orion is trying to help them raise the money to operate the new facility. It will quadruple their project.That means they need more of everything, including special hands-free leashes for the warriors and service vests for the dogs.The vests say in bold letters, "DO NOT PET."Shari Duval, K9s for Warriors founder, explains that's important because when a dog has its vest on "he's working" and he shouldn't be distracted from his duties. The custom-trained dog may be reading the emotions of the warrior and be alert to preventing a panic attack. If he's interrupted, he can't work accurately.

PVPV/Rawlings students understand the value of service dogs. One of their fellow classmates, Ella, has a service dog named Rungee who alerts her when her blood sugar is too high or too low. As a diabetic, Ella doesn't feel the symptoms and she's grateful Rungee saves her from a medical crisis.If you'd like to raise money you can donate directly to K9s for Warriors.

The Weaver Foundation will match your donation.If you give $100 you'll be buying a special leash and a service vest.

To donate: http://k9sforwarriors.donorpages.com/MyEvent/FCNOperationOrion/

The K9s for Warriors website: www.k9sforwarriors.org

If you have a fundraiser please email Jeannie Blaylock. She'd love to feature your efforts on TV to inspire other groups.

jblaylock@firstcoastnews.com

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