Support Operation Freedom Paws at upcoming fundraiser

Mary Cortani, founder of Operation Freedom Paws, speaks to the crowd after receiving $3,320 during the annual meeting and charitable giving presentation of the Gilroy Foundation at the Santa Barbara Bank and Trust. Also on stage is Operation Freedom Paws

Operation Freedom Paws is hosting its first annual “Paws for Honor” dinner, dance and wine event Sept. 6 at Fortino Winery at 4525 Hecker Pass.
The evening fundraiser will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and will include silent and live auctions in addition to dinner, desserts and drinks. Vegetarian and non-alcoholic options are available.
The Degenerates will be playing live music throughout the event. Band member Scott Wenholz is a 1995 graduate of Gilroy High School and son of Janet Wenholz, an assistant trainer for OFP.
Janet said that all proceeds raised at the fundraiser will go towards rent and everyday functions of the OFP program.
Tickets are $50 per guest or $450 for a table of 10; attendees must be 21 or older. Tickets can be ordered online at http://operationfreedompaws.org.
OFP is a nationally renowned 501(c)3 nonprofit organization which was founded in 2010 by Mary Cortani, an Army veteran of 14 years and former Army Master Instructor of Canine Education.
Cortani made major headlines last year as one of nine other finalists who won a $50,000 grant for making CNN’s elite “Top 10 Heroes of 2012.”
OFP empowers wounded veterans and others with mental or physical impairments to not only train their own service dogs, but ultimately function with the help of their service dogs at home and in society. OFP begins by handpicking dogs from local shelters, then matching each canine to a compatible veteran. Many participants who go through the program struggle with issues such as post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.
According to Janet Wenholz, since the CNN publicity, class sizes have doubled so that there are now 30 to 40 dogs and handlers per class. In the last six weeks, 20 participants have joined OFP. Despite growing class sizes, Janet said the program still heavily focuses on individual issues and situations.
“Every dog is different and every person is different,” said Janet, who has trained her own pit bull, Miss Clover, to keep her from coming into contact with peanuts, to which she has a life-threatening allergy.
Janet said she encourages all to attend the “Paws for Honor” fundraiser because she feels OFP is truly a positive influence on the community.
If you would like to contribute to OFP, or sponsor a service dog, donations can be mailed to Operation Freedoms Paws, 777 First Street, PMB 515, Gilroy, CA 95020. Donations can also be made online by visiting www.operationfreedomspaws.org.

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