What does a Sunday afternoon of baseball, cookout and service dogs mean? It means a great time while raising money for a great cause!
On Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015, Vanquish Worldwide sponsored a baseball jersey auction at the local Minor League Tennessee Smokies (affiliate of the Chicago Cubs) baseball game against the Jacksonville Suns. Tennessee Smokies players wore patriotic-colored jerseys featuring the spirit and bond between the service dog and his veteran partner. The jerseys were designed and provided by Vanquish and were auctioned off as a fundraiser for Smoky Mountain Service Dogs (SMSD) with ALL proceeds – as well as proceeds from a jersey raffle held by the Smokies themselves – benefiting the organization.
Vanquish President/CEO Eric W. Barton said, “He hoped that the jersey auction fundraiser would help spread the word about SMSD’s passionate mission, encourage others to volunteer in puppy raising and support service dog training with the organization.”
From the response of those in attendance that message was heard loud and clear. The big screen at the stadium featured a video showcasing some of the training needed to prepare each service dog for a life of service to their veteran partner, and the audience witnessed the reality of life for each disabled veteran by cheering on two double amputees and a disabled veteran from the SMSD organization. These veterans threw the ceremonial first pitches of the game with their service dog partners by their side. It was an emotional event throughout the stadium as the veterans were applauded for their sacrifice and determination. The three disabled veterans that joined players at the beginning of the game to throw out the ceremonial first pitches were Bradley Walker with Bella, Billy Marshall with Lucy and Daniel Belcher with Stryker. Also in attendance for the game was veteran Cody Evans with his service dog Willie.
A large group from Vanquish and sister companies Peak Technical Institute and LexLin Gypsy Ranch were in attendance to show their support for SMSD along with many friends and supporters of Smoky Mountain Service Dogs. Vanquish treated the group to a Calhoun’s dinner buffet on the Pioneer Party Porch at Smokies Stadium.
Over the last two years, Vanquish Worldwide and LexLin Gypsy Ranch have become the largest donors to the Smoky Mountain Service Dogs organization, which strives to provide mobility assistance service dogs to disabled veterans, and in turn, significantly improve their quality of life.
“We are grateful for our strong partnership with Vanquish Worldwide and LexLin Ranch, and their continued support to assist us in providing service dogs to our wounded heroes. Together we are making a difference and improving the lives of those who have paid a huge price to defend our great nation,” said Mike Kitchens, Smoky Mountain Service Dogs Volunteer Chair.
Another highlight of the evening came when Vanquish’s Vice President of Operations Jason Bothman and SMSD chairman Mike Kitchens, who served in the U.S. Army, came together for a radio interview on Smokies radio broadcast. They told of how important it is to give back to our veterans and to take care of them when they return home. The biggest highlight, however, came when Vanquish staff presented SMSD with a check on the field for the amount of $10,080. Half of that amount was raised through the raffle and jersey auction while the other half was matched from Vanquish Worldwide.
“The mission, countless success stories and the impact these special dogs make in the lives of wounded warriors is incredible,” Barton said. “At Vanquish, we are proud to partner with and continue the mission of the SMSD organization.”