BELMOND, Iowa - The Iowa-based Retrieving Freedom has a mission to be a guide to connect children with Autism as well as soldiers that have come home from the battfields with trained service dogs.
Retired Staff Sergeant Andrew O'Connor of Sheffield spent a little over a decade in the Army, before receiving a medical discharge and a full retirement. Nowadays, he works with kids, both as a paraeducator and as a football and basketball coach, at Belmond-Klemme High School.
Shortly after his retirement however, he was diagnosed with PTSD, with anxiety as a symptom.
"I wouldn't say I've had a bad anxiety attack, but my blood pressure goes up, my heart starts beating a little harder, I get anxious, I start playing with my fingers, just...get a little nervous."
He tried medication and therapy for treatment, but to no avail. Then he heard about Retrieving Freedom.
"One of my nurses said that I should try looking to get a service dog. I looked up Retrieving Freedom and like their facilities. I have been training over there and I've been in it a little over a year now."
He's been working with dogs that are being trained for eventual placement. And this weekend, he's asking for the public's help to cover the cost of the training, as it can be expensive. Currently, he's raised about $2,000.
"Overall, we try to raise about $7,500 to help pay for the cost of training, because it's very expensive over the two years the dogs are trained. We try to do our best to do fundraisers and get the word out so people know what's going on over there and helping other vets."
The Halloween-themed fundraiser will be held at Enchanted Acres near Sheffield this Saturday from Noon-2 p.m. All proceeds will go towards the cause.
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