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Woman founds group to help equip service dogs
Local groups support Claxton resident's SD Gunner Fund
Brittnee and retired Sgt. Hamilton Kinard stand with officials at the Lincoln Award presentation in February. - photo by Photo provided.

For more information on the SD Gunner Fund visit

After retired Sgt. Hamilton Kinard was wounded in an explosion in Iraq, his wife, Britnee, found herself switching professional gears.

After working in banking and finance, she became a full-time caregiver for her husband, a Purple Heart recipient, as he suffered the physcial wounds and post-traumatic stress disorder. Through a series of events, Britnee Kinard grew frustrated with a system that was failing to meet the needs of her husband. As result, she founded SD Gunner Fund in 2014.

With the help of several Bryan County residents and organizations, the fund is growing. The Kinards say they are grateful for the work Richmond Hill-based Lesley Francis Public Relations and the Rotary Club of Richmond Hill have already contributed to their organization.

The Kinards, of Claxton, welcomed their first child, Blayne, on Father’s Day in 2010. In 2013, Blayne was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder and mixed-receptive/expressive-language disorder. Two years later, Maks was born.

As Kinard supported her dependent husband and two young boys, she sought purpose where she could apply her passion for helping those battling life’s obstacles and a frustrating process of receiving aid.

After battling through unknown territory with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Kinards felt they needed to do something to help others.

“I didn’t have anyone there to help me. My husband didn’t know the ins and outs of the VA, and as we got deeper into it, I started getting phone calls from all over the U.S.,” Kinard said. “People were asking me to help them with their claims. They were trying to find a device that might not be paid. All of this went through word of mouth.”

Because of the many phone calls and unexpected cries for help, Kinard knew she needed to do something.

“The SD Gunner Fund was created to assist veterans and disabled children with the financial expense of owning much-needed service animals,” she said. “Service animals require a variety of necessary items in order to perform their service. Those items can include but are not limited to: vests, custom harnesses, other assistance items, veterinary visits and more. Service dogs are trained to support individuals with mobility, hearing, psychiatric and brain/neurological disabilities. These dogs are professionally trained to meet the individual needs of their partner and completes tasks such as opening doors, picking up dropped objects, assisting with daily dressing or pulling a manual wheelchair. The SD Gunner Fund can also assist veterans and disabled children with a variety of other financial assistance if needed.”

It was an 18-month struggle to get approval for Service Dog Gunner — for whom the nonprofit Kinard established is named. Hamilton Kinard was officially granted the service dog in 2014.

Nine years after he suffered his traumatic injuries in Iraq, Kinard and his family were finally getting the assistance they needed.

“SD Gunner also watches over my son when he sleeps and runs to him when he screams,” Britnee Kinard said. “He is our guardian angel! If a parent of a disabled child or military family is in need, I want them to know they are not in this fight alone, and that we want to help.”

On Nov. 11, the SD Gunner Fund, will have a fall fundraiser at the Richmond Hill City Center in J.F. Gregory Park. All proceeds will benefit the projects and services SD Gunner Fund targets for veterans and disabled children.

Kinard was named the recipient of a 2015 Lincoln Award in February during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington for her commitment to being a full-time caregiver — not only for her family, but also for her tireless efforts in helping other families of military veterans get the services they need.

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