Making an Impact

St. Charles Borromeo Students Sponsor Service Dog

By Alli Shoemaker

A brown Labrador puppy has an important job to do thanks to students at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in St. Anthony. They helped raise money to buy and train “Charger” through Paws Assisting Wounded Warriors (PAWWS).

Once Charger is fully trained, he will help a Minnesota veteran re-enter civilian life and cope with challenges associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As a service dog, he will bring a wide set of skills to his new home, like alerting his owner if someone enters their personal space and waking them up from nightmares.

St. Charles Principal Danny Kieffer is proud of the student leadership group Charge to Serve, which led the fundraising efforts. Together with teachers Laura Hennes and Teri Wysopal, the group helps coordinate service projects, dances and more.

“Charge to Serve is an outlet for our students to act out who they are called to be as followers of Christ,” Kieffer said.

Last school year, the group worked with a disc jockey who donated his time at school dances and a kennel that reduced its rates to help them purchase Charger. To cover the rest of the expenses like training, Charge to Serve organized a raffle and a father-daughter, mother-son dance.

Charger’s future owner will need 80 hours of experience training with the dog before the pair can live together, along with additional weekly training sessions. To ensure they feel instant camaraderie, St. Charles students made matching tie blankets for Charger and his veteran.

PAWWS facilitator Pamela Barnett said that because of service dogs like Charger, veterans can enjoy daily life again.

“All the veterans who have been placed with our service dogs have changed by being able to go out in public and stay focused on their dogs instead of the effects of war,” Barnett said.

For Hennes, seeing the heartfelt community investment was the best part of the project, noting that the experience with Charger was just a small part of the love, compassion and charity that resides at St. Charles.

“It took on a life of its own — this spirit of giving and care that Charger started,” she said.

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