VALLEY STREAM, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A Long Island shelter dedicated to helping heroes got a little assistance from local school children Friday.
The kids pitched in at Paws of War, which trains rescue dogs to help military veterans.
CBS2’s Cindy Hsu met Vietnam veteran Lionel Bauman and his service dog, Mr. Wrinkles. The pair has been inseparable since Bauman adopted Mr. Wrinkles six years ago and Paws of War trained him to be a service dog for Bauman’s PTSD.
“He helps me go out in public, meet people. I was very withdrawn before him. He gives me the confidence, he looks after me,” Bauman told Hsu. “If he sees me getting uptight, he’ll come, he’ll stay close to me, he’ll lick me.”
The students at Ogden Elementary School celebrated Make a Difference Day by raising money for Paws of War to train more dogs – a long and costly process.
“It usually takes between two to three years, depending on the dog, and it’s a very expensive process – usually between $15,000 and $30,000 per dog,” said Cassandra Espadis.
The veterans pay nothing, and the Long Island group is run on donations. So the kids are trying to raise $1,000 by collecting money and auctioning off their own artwork and bulldogs decorated by local artists.
Paws of War has been around for five years and has trained nearly 100 dogs for veterans. And the kids know why it’s so important.
“They’ve seen stuff in war and they want to forget that, and dogs help them,” said 10-year-old Isabela Nolasco.
“In their minds they have terrible memories, and dogs know how to make them feel loved and cared for,” added Arielle Vaknine.
The students sand a song for the veterans and got the chance to honor them.
“I’m going to say, ‘thank you for all your service and I’m so happy that you could be here,’” Sofia Toumazatos said.
They also learned the lesson of a lifetime.
“It’s important because it can show other people that not just adults can make a difference, but it’s also younger people,” said Justin Ogilvie.
“We’re really lucky to live in a country where it’s all free and we help,” said Ariana Ciampone.
And it’s never too early to start.
The dogs can also be trained to help veterans in wheelchairs and those with traumatic brain injuries.