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Colorado Kids Train Service Dogs
After school program teaches students to prepare pups to help veterans.
Service dogs have the potential to make a significant impact in the lives of veterans, but many can't afford their high price tag. When students from Summit Elementary School in Divide, Colorado learned about this problem, they wanted to help.

"We recognize a large number of veterans in Teller County who would largely benefit from having a service dog to help them," said student Christian Bonnette.

So five kids teamed up with trainer John Franks from the non-profit group Heroes Pack. After school they work with John to teach dogs the skills needed to help people with PTSD or mobility issues. Currently they're working with a dog named Holly who they plan to donate to a local veteran this spring.

It's not cheap to train a service dog. According to student Leah Strawmatt, it takes about 500 hours to train each pup and about $5,000.

In addition to dedicating their time and raising money, the kids are also doing their part to spread the word about the need for service dogs.

Recently they participated in a regional competition called Destination Imagination (the world's largest creative problem solving competition) and won first place. They were also given the Torchbearer Award, for teams whose solutions have extraordinary impact in and beyond their local communities. According to Heroes Pack, the award has never been given out at the regional level. The kids will move on to the state competition next.

This program is a win-win for everyone. In addition to becoming skilled dog trainers, the students are learning valuable life lessons and helping veterans in the community.

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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