The board of Veterans Moving Forward logged in for an online meeting Thursday afternoon to witness the transition of another of its service dogs from training to serving a disabled veteran. But they also got a surprise: A $10,000 grant from RingCentral.
The employees of the cloud-based communications provider selected the Sterling nonprofit as one of five grant winners nationally, chosen from among hundreds of applications.
VMF provides service dogs and canine therapy services to veterans with physical and mental health challenges. The free services are available to any veteran of any generation, who served honorably, has physical and/or mental challenges resulting from military operations and/or accident or disease experienced during or subsequent to military service.
De’Anelo Wynn, of Winchester, served eight years in the U.S. Navy, assigned to work as a bodyguard for chaplains on Hero Flights to give last rites to fallen service members. He suffered from bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorders, which, along with an Achilles rupture that required a year and a half of recovery, led to a medical discharge.
He lived with anxiety, night terrors and lots of medication until Veterans Moving Forward partnered him with Jug, a yellow lab from Short Hill Mountain Labradors near Purcellville. Over the past five years, they’ve been inseparable, with Jug able to detect and help Wynn through manic situations. Now 10 years old, Jug is being retired from service.
Enter Harry. The stubborn 2-year-old chocolate lab was about to wash out of the training program when he took a liking to Wynn during a chance meeting. They began training together and this week celebrated their graduation.
While Harry already has a good understanding of his responsibilities, he’ll have a good role model at home, as Jug will serve his retirement years with Wynn, as well. Wynn is the first VMF client to receive a second dog.
It is success stories like Wynn’s that won over the RingCentral selection committee during the inaugural round of grant-giving, said RingCentral Manager of Marketing Operations and Business Development Bay Nixon VMF who was on hand to make the surprise announcement. She said VMF was one of nine finalists to be voted on by the company’s employees; five were selected for to receive grants.
“I was so moved by y’all’s story. All of our employees were, and there are thousands of them,” said Nixon, who also promised to return to the Mercure Circle facility as a volunteer in the future.