Organizers of therapy dog fundraiser overjoyed with support

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A cycling journey to raise funds for therapy dog training has exceeded organizers’ goal times five.

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A cycling journey to raise funds for therapy dog training has exceeded organizers’ goal times five.

Rob and Marina Nederlof were keeping their fundraising goal for the second annual Prairie Thousand conservative, around $7,000.

On Tuesday, the final tally was $33,842.15.

Rob Nederlof poses under a Yellowhead Highway sign during his Prairie Thousand cycling tour to raise funds to support therapy dogs for people with PTSD. The second annual fundraiser saw him cycle from CFB Edmonton to Minnedosa, during which he raised more than $33,000. (Submitted)

“It reassures us that we are doing a good thing and it is something that is needed,” Marina said.

Marina said she was blown away by the amount they raised, adding this will help pay for two dogs to be trained through Wounded Warriors Canada to help people suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.)

“That will be two lives saved, two people who will get support they need,” she said. “First responders are there to save others. They generally don’t take their own mental health and physical health into account. These things affect themselves and those around them.”

The fundraiser started at CFB Edmonton Aug. 11, with Rob cycling along the Yellowhead Highway back to Minnedosa Aug. 19, and Marina following in a support vehicle. Along the way, Marina said, they didn’t do many media events, but they did stop to talk to people who supported them, as well as those who were going through their own PTSD or talking about others they know who do have PTSD.

Those conversations make it real, she said, because it shows it affects people, no matter if it is direct or indirect. People are becoming more comfortable with talking about their own mental health, she said, but it also shows the growing need for more supports like therapy dogs.

“Hearing personal stories was a massive motivator,” she said. “For us, Rob is familiar with the trauma of lived experience, while I can talk about how the family lives with someone who has PTSD.”

Rob is a sergeant in the Canadian Armed Forces stationed at CFB Shilo, working in base maintenance. They paid all travel expenses out of their own pockets, with all funds raised going to the therapy dog program.

While the dogs are a great help, Marina said they are costly and require specialized training and screening.

Each dog takes around two years to train and costs about $15,000 to $18,000 each. However, they are invaluable for the people who get them. They are trained to detect the subtle physical changes of a person experiencing a “flashback” episode, where they relive the trauma over again.

When that happens, they are trained to become a stabilizing force, taking the person out of that mental zone and if need be, pulling them away from the physical space and taking them somewhere safe to comfort them.

“These dogs help bring them out of that trauma and back to reality,” Marina said.

At one point on their journey, they met a veteran who had a PTSD therapy dog. He told them once he received his dog and began working with it, he went from being a recluse in his home, afraid of having a traumatic episode, to being able to live a relatively normal life thanks to his dog. Hearing stories like that, Marina said, helps the couple know their work is saving lives. There will be another Prairie Thousand next year, Marina said.

The idea of cycling as a fundraiser came to Rob after he was approached by a man who saw him biking. Long rides are normal for him, said Rob in previous comments, but when the man said he thought he was doing a charity ride, Rob thought about it and decided one for the Wounded Warriors support dog program immediately came to mind.

As a veteran and serving three tours of duty, he said he’s seen many fellow soldiers, as well as himself, struggle with their mental health and wanted to reach out to help them and raise awareness.

Wounded Warriors was unable to comment on Prairie Thousand’s latest fundraiser by press time. However, in previous comments, Steven Topham, Wounded Warriors Canada national partnership director stated in a news release the Nederlofs have been instrumental in helping the organization meet the growing needs of the people they serve when it comes to providing service dogs.

The Wounded Warrior PTSD service dogs program has existed since 2012. The organization has contributed more than $3 million to the training and pairing of PTSD service dogs, according to its website.

» kmckinley@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @karenleighmcki1

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