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Gary Sinise Foundation + Leader Dog

Gary Sinise Foundation and Leader Dog logos side by side

Gary Sinise Foundation Provides $350,000 Grant to Leader Dogs for the Blind to Benefit America’s Veterans and First Responders

On National Assistance Dog Day, the Gary Sinise Foundation announced a $350,000 grant to Leader Dogs for the Blind to support our service of veterans, defenders and first responders who are blind or visually impaired with highly skilled guide dogs.

“The Gary Sinise Foundation is proud to expand our efforts of support to our nation’s veterans, defenders and first responders, specifically those experiencing blindness or vision loss,” said Mike Thirtle, CEO of the Gary Sinise Foundation. “Through our partnership with Leader Dogs for the Blind, several Leader Dogs will be raised and trained to assist those we serve, helping them to regain their freedom and independence. And for all they have sacrificed for our country and communities, as our Founder Gary Sinise would say, ‘we can always do a little more.’”

“The support of the Gary Sinise Foundation will directly help veterans and first responders who are blind, visually impaired or Deafblind,” said Susan Daniels, CEO of Leader Dogs for the Blind. “The impact of working with a guide dog reaches beyond the recipient to their family, friends and community. As each recipients’ self-confidence and travel skills grow, so does their family’s comfort knowing their loved one is safe and traveling independently with their Leader Dog by their side.”

Seven Puppies to be Sponsored

The Fisher family leans down to pet a yellow lab puppy, Forrest, on grassAs part of the grant, the Gary Sinise Foundation is sponsoring seven Future Leader Dogs. The first two puppies are Labrador retriever siblings who will be raised by the Fisher family and Linda and Tony Gimble. The Fishers are very experienced, having raised 10 Leader Dog puppies in the past. “When we heard that the Gary Sinise Foundation was sponsoring puppies, we immediately wanted to be a part of the partnership,” said Laura Fisher. “My husband, Paul, is an Army veteran and I work for Leader Dog. It’s like raising one of these special puppies in our home was meant to be.”

The Gimbles, both wearing black t-shirts with the Gary Sinise Foundation logo, sit next to each other, smiling. Linda Gimble has a black lab puppy, Jenny, on her lap.This will be the 23rd puppy that Linda and Tony Gimble of Moline, IL have raised. “We are already great supporters of Leader Dogs for the Blind and to be able to raise a puppy sponsored by the Gary Sinise Foundation just makes this more special to us,” said Linda Gimble. “Our son retired after 20 years in the Air Force, and this is a way for our family to honor his service and the service of millions of others like him.”

How a Leader Dog Can Make a Difference

Jeff Hawkins was a paramedic who lived for his job. So, when forced to retire due to vision loss from Stargardt’s disease, his life seemed to stop. “I basically lost myself. I had to quit all the things that I loved doing,” said Jeff. Then he received his first Leader Dog, Gracie, in 2013. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to have a light at the end of that dark tunnel, to know that things are going to be all right again. That I’m going to find myself again.” Though Jeff could not return to the job he loved, he regained his independence, self-confidence and other things he loved like downhill skiing, hiking, hockey and traveling. When Gracie retired after eight years with Jeff, he returned to Leader Dog to receive his current guide dog, Dove.

Follow Along on Social Media

“The Gary Sinise Foundation wants to share this special partnership with everyone,” said Thirtle. “We invite everyone to follow the progress of these special puppies on our Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter as they grow and learn how to be a guide dog for a veteran or first responder who is blind or visually impaired.”

A yellow lab puppy and a black lab puppy in separate, side-by-side photos. They each wear a blue Future Leader Dog bandanna
On the left is Future Leader Dog Forrest, a yellow Labrador retriever named for the main character in the movie Forrest Gump, which co-starred Gary Sinise as Lieutenant Dan Taylor. Future Leader Dog Forrest is the first of seven Leader Dog puppies that will be sponsored by the Gary Sinise Foundation. Pictured on the right is Future Leader Dog Jenny, a black Labrador retriever named for the main female character in Forrest Gump. Future Leader Dog Jenny is the second of seven Leader Dog puppies they will sponsor over the next two years.

The Gary Sinise Foundation and Leader Dogs for the Blind are Charity Navigator 4-Star Charities and have the GuideStar Platinum Seal of Transparency.

The Gary Sinise Foundation was established under the philanthropic direction of award-winning actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise, who has been an advocate of our nation’s defenders for nearly 40 years. The Gary Sinise Foundation’s mission is to serve our country by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. The Foundation’s four programmatic pillars are our way of “doing a little more” for those who sacrifice so much for our country. As our Founder and Chairman Gary Sinise always says, “While we can never do enough for our defenders and their loved ones, we can always do a little more.” That spirit of service is the bedrock of all of the Foundation’s programs, which include R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) Program, Relief and Resiliency Program, Community and Education Program, the First Responders Outreach Program. For more information, please visit GarySiniseFoundation.org.

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