The EOD Warrior Foundation has partnered with MADE in Texas Assistance Dogs to pair a trained service dog with EOD veteran Stephen Willoby.
Many EOD technicians need assistance when they return home from combat. Those who suffer from conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often find that service dogs bring relief, others who have physical injuries, including amputations, blindness, and other conditions, may benefit in having a service dog for multiple reasons.
The EOD Warrior Foundation is partnering with MADE in Texas Assistance Dogs to provide Stephen Willoby, an EOD veteran, with a fully and specially trained assistance dog. This dog, named KC, was donated in honor of former U.S. Navy EOD officer, Commander Kevin Childre, who passed away in May 2015 as a result of a bicycle accident while on a ride raising awareness for the EOD Warriors Foundation.
“We are pleased to work with MADE in Texas Assistance Dogs to have found a deserving warrior, who will benefit greatly by bringing KC home,” explains Nicole Motsek, executive director of the EOD Warrior Foundation. “We are also thrilled to honor Kevin, who meant so much to the EOD Community and did so much to support our organization. Kevin was a true dog lover and this is a great way to honor his memory.”
The fully trained service dog will be placed with Willoby between May 1-4, where there will be four days of placement training, helping KC to become acclimated to his new home and lifestyle. The placement will occur in his hometown, near Phoenix, Ariz. Willoby joined the Air Force in December 2002, and soon after entered the Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal School at Eglin Air Force Base in Fla. In June 2006, he was deployed to Iraq, where he remained in combat until the following January. Soon after, he was promoted to sergeant.
On September 2, 2007, Willoby was boating with friends and decided to dive into the water. When he did, he hit a sand bar, fracturing his C6 vertebrae, leaving him a quadriplegic. While he has gross motor function in his arms, he doesn’t have functional use of his hands or full use of his arms. He can drive and attended college for a while, but he is unable to do things such as pick up things that he drops, open doors, push elevator buttons, pull the wheelchair into the accessible van, and throw away trash. He also has PTSD, and although it’s well controlled, it has left him feeling vulnerable when he gets in and out of his truck. These are all issues that KC has been trained to assist with. The service dog will also be another set of eyes, and provide personal space in crowds.
“The things KC will be able to help me with are ones that others take for granted, but when you lose the ability to do them it has a big impact on your life,” says Stephen Willoby. “I’m grateful to be getting paired up with KC and look forward to a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.”
The assistance dog was named after Navy Commander Kevin Childre, who was an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician. Kevin started the annual 2-Day EOD Undefeated Bike Ride in 2009 to support the EOD community, which quickly became the largest fundraiser for the EOD Warrior Foundation, raising almost $1.3 million in support of EOD families in its six-year history. While on a 6-day bicycle ride to raise awareness for the cause, he was in a fatal accident. The annual ride continues in four cities across the country this fall in his honor. Wanting to honor his memory, MADE in Texas Assistance Dogs began training a Goldendoodle puppy to become a service dog. Kevin’s dog, Tucker, was also a beautiful Goldendoodle.
“We believe in what Kevin did for our country and feel this is a great way to honor him,” explained Hailey Jumper Mauldin, founder and executive director of MADE in Texas Assistance Dogs. “Helping fellow EOD technicians was Kevin’s life and KC will help continue the mission in Kevin’s honor. Pairing this dog with Stephen is a great move. We are thrilled to be a part of this legacy.”
The placement schedule (available by request) includes family meetings, command reviews and practice, lunch at restaurants, practice outings, troubleshooting, advanced training, and a skills test.
The EOD Warrior Foundation is an organization that helps the families of the 7,000 people in our military who are Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians and perform bomb disposal duties. The EOD Warrior Foundation helps this elite group by providing financial relief, therapeutic healing retreats, a scholarship program, care of the EOD Memorial Wall located at Eglin AFB, Fla. and more. Their work is supported by private donations and the generosity of those who support the organization. To learn more about the EOD Warrior Foundation, or see their fundraising events calendar, visit their site at: www.eodwarriorfoundation.org.
About EOD Warrior Foundation
The EOD Warrior Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help EOD warriors and their family members to include families of fallen EOD warriors. Specific programs include financial relief, college scholarships, hope and wellness retreats and care of the EOD Memorial located at Eglin AFB, Fla. To learn more about the EOD Warrior Foundation, or see their fundraising events calendar, visit their site at: www.eodwarriorfoundation.org.