There are moments in life when hard work and determination go unnoticed. It’s the product of good character and positive work ethic, and usually it’s recognized only by the person investing their own time, sweat and tears into their effort. Every once in a while, however, fate intervenes, casts a light on the anonymous and lifts up these works of good for the entire world to see.
As our voting period came to a close, we at Epic Thanks Tampa Bay were very excited to tally the results and see which of our five finalists received the most support from the members of our community. All five individuals and programs nominated are worthy candidates, and we feel each deserves continued backing for their efforts. Unfortunately, we could select only one finalist to be this year’s winner and the person whom we’ll be celebrating at our event on November 19.
It is with much honor and giddy anticipation that we’re pleased to announce this year’s Tampa Bay area Changemaker as determined by you the voters. That distinguished designation goes to Mike Halley and his program Halley’s K-9s for Veterans.
Halley’s K-9s for Veterans provides trained service and companion dogs for disabled Veterans. Working with dogs that are donated to the program or rescued from a shelter, Halley’s K-9s trains veterans to care for their pets over a period of several weeks so the new teams can learn to work together as one.
Following his career as a United Stated Marine, Mike Halley spent much time dealing with issues for which he could not identify the cause. It was not until 1988 that he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and he has spent the last twenty two years trying to learn how to live with his condition. In March of 2007, Mike trained his Doberman pinscher, Porsche, to be his personal service dog, and this has led to making Mike’s life much so much better. The following year was filled with other veterans asking him “Who trained your dog?” and “Can you train a dog for me?”
As a result, Mike founded Halley’s K-9s for Veterans in October of 2008, to provide obedient dogs to disabled veterans of all war eras, to help these veterans overcome their invisible disabilities in order to become more productive and functional, and also to inform the public of the need for service dogs other than Seeing Eye dogs. Mike and his wife have spent $25k of their own money raising, feeding and training service dogs to give to disabled American Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or other invisible disabilities.
The kennel is primarily funded through Mike’s disability check from the Veteran’s Administration as well as some minor donations from friends. All dogs used are either donated to the program or rescued. To date, Halley’s K-9s for Veterans has placed and/or trained twenty eight teams, and many of the service dogs placed have detected life-threatening illnesses or conditions for their new owners.
As this year’s Changemaker, Mike hopes to grow Halley’s K-9s for Veterans into the organization for placing well trained service dogs that perform life saving “miracles” on a regular basis. Mike’s plans for Halley’s K9s include obtaining a used RV for housing veterans that live fifty miles away or more during their intensive training period with their new partner, using the funds to pay for the program’s veterinary bill, purchase additional agility equipment for the training of the dogs, equipping the kennel for winter weather and upgrading the physical facilities surrounding the kennel.
We hope you come out and join us on November 19 as we celebrate Mike’s amazing efforts and help raise money for his incredibly worthy cause.