We first learned of the Kinards and SD Gunner Fund, a 501c3 non-profit, in October of 2015. A year later they made Richmond Hill home. The Kinards, their children Blayne (6), and Maks (4), along with service dog Gunner, a great pyrenese, and service dog In training Winston an English cream golden retriever, made the move after Hurricane Matthew impacted their Claxton home.
SD Gunner Fund has felt the warmth and support from Bryan County since 2014.
Now, as they face the task of training and placing 12 dogs in 2017 with a projected fundraising goal of $50,000; SD Gunner Fund founder Britnee Kinard is grateful for those who have supported the mission of SD Gunner Fund and will continue to forge ahead building new partnerships, and continuing their mission.
The mission of SD Gunner Fund is to assist veterans and disabled children with the financial expense of owning much needed service animals. It was established after the Kinard family navigated their way through the Veteran Affairs in hopes of getting funding for a service animal for husband and disabled veteran, Hamilton. An 18-month process turned into a life’s work for the Kinard family. They have since aided in the processing and funding of 41 service dogs which have been trained and placed with disabled veterans and or children in Georgia, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania.
Shortly after their arrival in Richmond Hill they attended the Bryan County Special Needs Resource Fair. This was the beginning of their partnership with Bryan County Schools and Celina Hughes, Bryan County Parent Mentor.
SD Gunner Fund was also present at Exceptional Kids Week in March of 2017 where they traveled to each campus across the county. "Celina Hughes set up the schedule and planned for a 30-minute appearance in each classroom. We went to every school here in north and south Bryan County, our dogs handled it well. We went everywhere, it was cool. We had kids that were extremely disabled and wheel chair bound, and some had no ability to communicate. Winston, was with us at the time and propped himself up on the student’s chair. Her face lit up and she clearly responded to the dog and we had several experiences like that," said Kinard. It was a challenge to get around to all the schools, but Kinard believes the dogs were received well and those present could see the impact it had on the students and teachers.
Ollie, a poodle and service dog in training, has recently become a daily fixture at Carver Elementary School with Kinard. Ollie has passed his public access test and his canine good citizens test and continues to train with Kinard. "The kids love him. Ollie and I go to the Special Education Room, then attend the Resource Class, then we head to Speech Class and go back to the Special Education Room, lunch then recess. We are looking forward to continuing to develop a partnership with Bryan County Schools and have cherished seeing the impact SDiT Ollie is having on the lives of these children," said Kinard.
Aside from the works at Bryan County Schools over the past few weeks, SD Gunner Fund has been busy working with other community organizations. Local businesses stepped in to help Kinard back in February as she chose to celebrate local caregivers through a Facebook challenge. Lavendar Hill, Maintain Beauty Bar, Lula Roe rep Sarah Fair, Hanger 15 and Chance and Taylor all played a role in creating an unforgettable day for a group of caregivers who make daily sacrifices to care for their special needs children or veterans. From Kendra Scott to Chipotle, KTM’s Sew Much Baggage Pop Up Night, a more recent Fia Rua Pub night, and this summer is even busier as they have been selected as the Service Brewing Company Charity Partner of the Summer. From May to August a portion of proceeds will go to SD Gunner Fund.
The Kinards know first-hand the power of a service animal. They know how it radically impacts the life of a disabled veteran and special needs child. Their unique situation allows them to relate to many families desperately seeking help as they learn to be caregivers in these areas.
"There are many helping us by referring us to others. We have had so much help from the paper and other media outlets and we are so grateful for that. We are looking to continue to grow awareness here and across the coastal empire to share our message and place dogs," said Kinard.
For more information on SD Gunner Fund and how to get involved with this mission visit http://webjobs.kender.org/sdgunnerfund/ or check them out on Facebook.