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Todd and Ivy Win Purina Visible Impact Award

In the Fall issue of gmhTODAY we shared the powerful story of Army veteran/retired firefighter Todd Lunn and his service dog, Ivy, trained and mentored by local nonprofit, Operation Freedom Paws in San Martin. Ivy, a Great Pyrenees rescue, was one of only five national finalists in Purina’s first-ever “Visible Impact Award” recognizing the vital role service dogs play in the lives of veterans with PTSD. We asked our readers to please support the vote and thanks to this community and beyond, Ivy won!

Todd and Ivy, his wife Michelle Lunn, and Mary Cortani, the founder and Executive Director of Operation Freedom Paws, were all flown out by Purina to attend “The National Dog Show” in Philadelphia. On Saturday November 19th, in front of a live audience, Ivy was honored as the recipient of the “Visible Impact Award” with her proud handler by her side and Michelle and Mary cheering them on. Cortani remarked, “We’re grateful for the recognition of Todd and Ivy as this year’s winners of the Purina Visible Impact Award because it brings attention to the importance of service dogs helping veterans with disabilities. While attending ‘The National Dog Show’ and watching Todd receive the award, I was reminded of why we do what we do every day.”

The Purina award provides significant gifts to Todd Lunn and Operation Freedom Paws. Todd will personally receive a $10,000 cash prize and Operation Freedom Paws will receive $25,000 toward their mission. It costs approximately $20,000 to match and put a service dog team through their 48-week program, at no cost to that individual. Cortani further shared her gratitude by saying, “We can’t say enough about the amazing treatment and attention that the Purina folks put into making sure we had a fabulous experience and felt valued. It’s a wonderful team of caring humans.”

Lunn reflected on his journey to this moment with his service dog Ivy his side, “This award is the culmination of all the work and dedication of incredible people that care and support Vets and first responders. The award should honestly have the names of hundreds of people who had enough love to reach out to a man that had lost his way.” Lunn continued, “Every time I look in Ivy’s eyes when having a bad day I see all the people that God put in my life to help me come back from my hell. This award that Ivy received should be a beacon of hope for the thousands of other men and women who think they are alone, discarded and not loved. Don’t give up, there is a way to get out of your darkness, it may not be my way or someone else’s way, but you are worth it.”

If you would like to consider a tax-deductible donation this giving season to help save two lives, one team at a time, go to: operationfreedompaws.org.

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