Ricky Mendez, USMC graduates Shelter to Soldier™ program with service dog Plato

February 24, 2016

On Wednesday, February 17th, 2016, Ricky Mendez of the United States Marine Corps graduated the Shelter to Soldier™ program with his new service dog, Plato.

Shelter to Soldier™ CoFounders, Kyrié and Graham Bloem, adopted Plato from a rescue group in the LA area in February 2015 under the corporate sponsorship of Plato Pet Treats and their philanthropic program, Plato Wags Back. Over one-year’s time, Plato Pet Treats donated $10,000 toward the adoption, care, housing, training and graduation of Plato through our program in addition to a year’s worth of pet treats that all of our Shelter to Soldier™ service dogs enjoyed during their training sessions. They also generously donated silent auction items to all of our fundraising events during their partnership with Shelter to Soldier™. We feel honored to have been the recipient of such generous corporate giving, as we know that their contribution indeed helped us “Save Lives, Two at a Time” with the adoption of Plato and his subsequent placement with USMC veteran, Ricky. A short documentary film, organized and produced by the Plato Pet Treats team, will highlight the impact our organization has on the lives of shelter dogs and post-9/11 combat veterans by documenting Plato and Ricky’s journey with Shelter to Soldier™.

The pair had been in handler training for 5 months prior to graduation, during which time Ricky learned all about Plato’s service dog training, psychiatric service tasks, and how to be a good handler of Plato in public settings. Their graduation was a special platform to honor Ricky for his brave service and countless sacrifices as well as celebrate Ricky and Plato on their hard work together as a team. Cecilia Meech, Plato Pet Treats representative in San Diego, attended the graduation on behalf of the Plato Pet Treats team whose headquarters are in Los Angeles, CA. We had the privilege of working with Moving Map Pictures who filmed the graduation ceremony.

Pay It Forward Processing also attended the event to celebrate the success of Ricky and Plato and also to present a check in the amount of $2124.44 raised through their charitable merchant processing platform, Every Swipe Benefits Charity. Shelter to Soldier™ is so pleased to be Pay It Forward nonprofit partner!

Brad Fite, author of Life After Death, acclaimed novel about the struggle with Post Traumatic Stress after traumatic combat experiences and rising above the diagnosis and injuries in everyday US society and Amazon Best Seller, spoke at the event to shed light on the reality of combat in the Middle East, his severe injuries incurred during his service overseas, and the recovery process that has lead him on a journey to serve our veterans on the home front and raise awareness of the troubling epidemic of Post Traumatic Stress for the brave men and women who defend our freedoms.


2016 Waggy Awards by The Tailwagger’s Foundation honor STS Founder Graham Bloem

The evening of February 21st, 2016 was one to remember for Shelter to Soldier™ Founder, Graham Bloem. The Tailwagger’s Foundation honored Graham’s work with Shelter to Soldier™ with the 2016 Waggy Award. Presenting the award was Mitch O’Farrell, councilman proudly representing the constituents of the 13th Council District in the City of Los Angeles. The Tailwaggers Foundation provides funding to qualified 501c non-profit organizations who provide life-saving treatments to sick and injured animals. Most animal rescue organizations spend between 40 and 50 percent of their budgets to medically treat sick and injured animals. Rescue organizations simply do not have the budget to treat all the animals that come through their doors. In many cases, bringing an injured dog or cat back to a state of health can mean the difference between being adopted and euthanasia. The Tailwaggers Foundation is built to assist the rescue organizations in their efforts to  help more animals get healthy and find Forever Homes.

The 2016 Waggy Awards ceremony was hosted by HGTV stars Clive Pearse and Lisa LaPorta who kept the audience rolling in laughter. Other award winners include Jane Velez-Mitchell and Matt Dabaneh. Jane is an award-winning television anchor (CNN, HLN), author (iWant, Addict Nation, Exposed: The Secret Life of Jodi Arias), and online journalist (janeUnchained.com). On television and outside of it, Jane dedicates her time and resources to various charitable and humane causes. She is well known for her animal rights advocacy and is a vegan and an environmentalist. In July 2009, Farm Animal Rights Movement awarded Jane the Celebrity Animal Activist Award. While working at Celebrity Justice, her reporting on animal cruelty earned that show Genesis Awards from the Humane Society of the United States. She earned additional Genesis Awards for her show Issues in 2010. PETA awarded her their “Movers and Shakers Award” in 2012. Her award was presented by friend, prolific TV producer and TMZ founder, Harvey Levin.

Matt Dabaneh was elected to the State Assembly in 2013. He represents Greater Los Angeles’s 45th District, which includes Calabasas, Encino, and Sherman Oaks (among others). Matt authored the Research Animal Adoption Bill (AB 147) in 2015. The bill, signed into law in October, requires that California research laboratories receiving tax-payer funding offer healthy dogs and cats — no longer needed for research purposes—to non-profit animal rescue organizations. Said Matt: “California — a leader in animal welfare legislation — has passed a common-sense and compassionate law to ensure that research animals are given a second chance at life. No longer will it be acceptable to euthanize adoptable dogs and cats.” His presenter was LA comedian and host of Two Girls One Pup, a pet-friendly comedy experience designated by L.A. Weekly as one of the “10 Best New Stand-Up Shows in L.A,” Monique Madrid.

Linda Blair, actress in “The Exorcist”, author of “Going Vegan,” and Founder of the Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation, was also a presenter at the awards ceremony.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of the evening was meeting all of the wonderful people involved with The Tailwagger’s Foundation, and the animal activists from the Los Angeles and Southern California regions. Shelter to Soldier™ would like to express a heartfelt thank you to all of the sponsors of the evening who made The Waggy Awards the success that it was and to all of the animal activists doing incredible work for our friends with no voice. We feel so proud to have been recognized next to individuals who are changing the way society views animal rights and welfare, and who are truly making a difference in the world.






Shelter to Soldier™ Service Dog & Veteran Graduation: Jade & Chris

January 25, 2016

What a beautiful day at Poway Veterans Park!!!! So special because Jade, a Shelter to Soldier™ service dog, graduated our program with her veteran handler Chris Meyer Ontiveros, U.S. Army Ret. We are so proud of the incredible journey they have created together and we look forward to watching it continue! Huge thanks to @Integriv, an amazing company out of ‪#‎carlsbad‬, that is paving the way for ‪#‎corporategiving‬. Not only did they sponsor the adoption, training, care and placement of Jade in 2014/2015, they just sponsored a second dog! Our mission at Shelter to Soldier™ would not be even remotely possible without the support of corporations and individuals who give back in the wonderful ways they have. THANK YOU! And CONGRATULATIONS to Jade and Chris! Thank you to our ‪#‎veteran‬graduates Ben and Tank, and Vic and Kira the Service Dog for coming out to support! ‪#‎veterans‬ ‪#‎dogrescue‬ ‪#‎shelterdog‬ ‪#‎servicedog‬ ‪#‎ptsd‬ ‪#‎usarmy‬‪#‎army‬ ‪#‎military‬

Del Mar International Horse Show – Saving Lives Two at a Time Benefit

October 19, 2015

Our Saving Lives Two at a Time Benefit last night was wonderful! We met some great people, shared our mission, watched the horses show off and we raised much needed funds to support our program! Thank you to our attendees for taking time to learn about our mission and for being so generous!

Huge thanks to West Palms Events for allowing us the opportunity and for all of the support! Thank you to our amazing, passionate and very hard working volunteers!

Our guests enjoyed delicious small plates thanks to the very kind food vendors that donated 100% of what was served last night! Paella Valenciana Toast Catering San Diego Creative Catering & EventsCupcakes Squared!! Thank you so much! 

To all of the people & companies that donated items for the auctions and drawing, as well as for the gift bags, thank you! We are also so grateful to have the amazing Nine10 Photobooth Images support all of our photography needs!! Donna B Art, you are so talented and we are very grateful for the kind donation of your artwork!

Many thanks to Vic Martin and Ricky Mendez, two of our STS veteran recipients that attended. Vic graduated with his service dog Kira the Service Dog last November and Ricky will be graduating with his pup Plato (sponsored by Plato Pet Treats) in the near future!

A very special thank you to Griffin Funding for stepping up in a big way and making a $12,000 donation on the spot to make it possible for us to sponsor a second dog and veteran thanks to your generosity!!

One last heartfelt thank you to our friend, Alex Woodward, for donating the amazing private performance which was a huge hit as an opportunity drawing item and for giving all of our guests a copy of one of your amazing books, For The Sender! Stay up to date with Alex and For The Sender here: For The Sender. Shelter to Soldier™ President, Graham Bloem, is honored to be mentioned in Alex’s new book, For The Sender: Love Letters from Vietnam.


CBS 8 News – Service Dog for Veterans


Biggs Harley-Davidson Hosts Fundraiser

August 12, 2015

Biggs Harley-Davidson located at 1040 Los Vallecitos Blvd., Suite #113 in San Marcos, CA, will host a celebrity ride on Saturday, August 29, 2015, beginning at 9:00 am to benefit Shelter to Soldier™, a San Diego-based 501c3 non-profit organization that rescues shelter dogs and trains them to become certified psychiatric service companions for post 9/11 U.S. combat veterans suffering from PTSD and/or TBI (www.sheltertosoldier.org). Radio personality Clint August from 101.5 KGB Classic Rock, Dr. Ken Druck, author and organizational consultant along with Sam Hay from the Oceanside Police Canine Officers’ Association will lead the ride starting at 11:00 from Biggs Harley-Davidson along a coastal route. Motorcycle riders can sign up to participate for a $10 donation in person at 1040 Los Vallecitos Blvd. San Marcos, CA or by calling (760) 481-7300. The event is free and open to the public, who can participate in a variety of fundraising activities throughout the day.

biggsFestivities will begin with a hot waffle bar breakfast at 9:00 am followed by a celebrity meet-and-greet at 10:45 am, prior to the ride beginning at 11:00 am. Opportunity drawing tickets will be available for sale beginning at 11:00 am and a silent auction goes lives for bidding including a tool kit from Cornwell Tools and autographed professional sports memorabilia. At 12:00 noon, a barbeque lunch will be served while the Casey Hensley Band performs, followed by a canine unit show at 1:15 pm by the Oceanside Police Department. Shopping experiences at the Vendor Village will be open from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, featuring Harley-Davidson logo products; all proceeds will benefit Shelter to Soldier™.

Every day on average, twenty-two (22) U.S. veterans and one (1) active duty service member commit suicide (Department of Veteran Affairs) and every 11 seconds an animal is euthanized in the U.S. In the past year alone, the number of diagnosed cases of PTSD in the military jumped 50% and this represents cases that have been diagnosed. Studies estimate that one in every five military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is suffering from PTSD. The services Shelter to Soldier™ provides for free to veterans and animals rescued from shelters fulfills the mission of this 501 c3 organization by “Saving Lives, Two at a Time”. To learn more about veteran-support services provided by STS, call 855-CUS-TMK9 (855-287-8659) for a confidential interview regarding eligibility.

Shelter to Soldier™ – “Saving Lives, Two at a Time” – Yoga Digest

July 19, 2015

Yoga-Digest-JulyAugust-CoverWow! What a pleasure and blessing to be able to see the story of one of our veteran/service dog teams featured in the July/August issue of Yoga Digest. The article is a 4 page spread and shares information about our mission at Shelter to Soldier™, a recent success story and some powerful quotes from veteran recipient Vic Martin and his wife Kacy Martin. Huge thank you’s to Vic, Kacy, Jenn Bodnar for writing this amazing article and to Maxine Chapman (Founder of BuddhiBox Yoga Subscription Box) for helping connect the dots and make this happen. It is so important for people to understand a few things about our mission and the massive impact an article like this has. 

Every day, 22 veterans and 1 active duty service member are lost to suicide…every year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized in our nation. This story is about 2 lives we helped save through our program, and by sharing their story we will save many more. The message that is being spread in a national publication like this magazine is this: Hope for many other veterans feeling as though there isn’t any left, hope for the spouse and family of a veteran who also feels there is no where else to turn, and hope for the dogs that are lost, confused, scared, homeless and voiceless.

Yoga-Digest-JulyAugust-Issue-STS-Cover-ShotShelter to Soldier™ is still a young and small charity and while we aren’t even scraping the surface when it comes to helping veterans in the masses and saving tens of thousand of dogs directly, we understand the immense value of each and every life, 2-legged and 4-legged. Shelter to Soldier™ will continue to grow and help others but we understand that we can’t do it alone. We are so thankful that Yoga Digest has shared our story on this platform, so that we may touch the lives of so many more individuals who are seeking support in the face of adversity.

Please, take the time to purchase this issue online or by hard copy on a newsstand near you, or purchase the yearly subscription of Yoga Digest to receive motivation to be your best self. You will get to read the entire article about Shelter to Soldier™, Vic Martin and his service dog Kira (Kira the Service Dog) as well as many other great pieces that Yoga Digest offers for families in this issue. We can’t continue our mission without the kindness of people sharing it, and in this case Jenn Bodnar and Yoga Digest did that for us. They too can’t continue to help organizations like us if we don’t support them.

Yoga Digest

Visit this link to subscribe: http://yogadigest.com

Blessed and grateful,

Shelter to Soldier™

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