We unleash the potential of dogs by transforming them into custom-trained, life-changing assistance dogs for people in need.

Volunteer Spotlight

Judy Braun named Volunteer of the Year

Multi-tasker extraordinaire Judy Braun received FSD’s 2018 Werner Kaplan Volunteer of the Year Award at our annual Volunteer Appreciation Night on Nov. 14. Judy has been lending her time, talents, and boundless enthusiasm to FSD for more than eight years as a volunteer dog handler and member of our Speaker’s Bureau. She also assists at FSD events, inspires other volunteers, and is a tireless advocate for the organization. Congratulations, Judy!

Says Judy, “I have been very blessed in my life by being able to do the things that I have a passion for. Working at FSD with the staff, the volunteers and, of course, the dogs is a joy. Many times I have said, ‘Where else can you go and come out with a smile on your face every time?’ Receiving the Werner Kaplan Award from Gilda Kaplan and Lani Kessler in honor of Werner fills my heart with gratitude and humility. Truly, once again, I have been blessed.”

The Volunteer of the Year Award is named for Werner Kaplan, who had a special place in his heart for Freedom Service Dogs. According to his daughter Lani Kessler, who is also an avid FSD supporter, “When my dad passed away, he was honored by many who gave donations to FSD. My mother, myself, and my sisters wanted to do something meaningful with those donations to remember this kind and caring man, and our unanimous decision was to enhance FSD’s Volunteer program. First on our to-do list was to create an annual Volunteer of the Year Award, and the volunteer receiving this award would exemplify my Dad’s ‘attitude of gratitude’ by going above and beyond their volunteer assignments. As FSD’s Volunteer of the Year for 2018, Judy Braun truly embraces the words, ‘To love what you do, and feel that it matters—how could anything be more fun!’”

Congratulations, Judy!

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Susan and Brian

Susan Hallstrom and her son Brian started volunteering in February 2017 as a way to spend time with dogs since other members of their family have allergies. They are dedicated volunteers who participated in multiple walking classes to hone their skills, and have started to learn clicker training and are working with our adoptable dogs to help get them started off on the right paw before finding new homes. We are so grateful for their hard work and commitment!

When asked why they volunteer at FSD, Susan said, “It’s wonderful knowing the positive impact I’m having on the lives of these dogs as well as their future owners, whether the dog goes on to become a service dog, or is adopted into a loving family.”

Brian added, “There are so many reasons why I volunteer at FSD, but the people here are a big reason. Everyone is always happy to help out and answer questions, and the staff values their volunteers so much! This amazing selfless organization helps so many people without asking for anything in return. I love volunteering here to help these wonderful people (and dogs!).”

If you have ever worked with a dog that seems unruly and difficult to manage, take heart from Susan’s words of advice: “One thing I really enjoy as a volunteer is seeing the amazing changes in some of the dogs from week- to-week. When I first started volunteering, sometimes I would take a newer dog without much training out to the play yard, and it would often be quite difficult due to the dog’s pulling habits or reactivity. I would find myself thinking that maybe I should avoid working with that dog in the future. However, I usually ended up taking that dog out again within the next couple of weeks, simply because he hadn’t been out of his kennel for a while that day. Almost every time, I found that the dog’s behavior had improved so much that he almost seemed like a different dog! Now that I have more training in how to deal with certain behaviors, I often find myself purposely picking those more difficult dogs to work with. I enjoy the challenge and the thought that maybe I had a small part in helping to change that dog for the better!”

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