BLAIR COUNTY, Pa (WTAJ)- The Service Paws of Central PA crossed a significant milestone Sunday, celebrating their tenth anniversary.
The non-profit began in 2011 out of necessity to help individuals finance service dogs. The ceremony was held at the UVA club in Altoona, where multiple board members and clients attended.
The service that the organization offers is claimed to be one of the only ones in the country. Chairman of the Service Paws of Central PA Joseph Fagnani says that there’s been exponential growth within the past two years. That is due to the many media appearances the non-profit has made.
“We geometrically expanded as far as the number of people we’ve been able to reach, ” Fagnani said. “The money we’ve been able to raise. The community has just been incredible with the outpouring of money for us, volunteers, and help.”
Fagnani says that they’ve had ten clients so far since beginning the service. They’re expecting to help finance four more within the upcoming year.
Service dogs nowadays can go for up to $30,000 depending on the need. The Service Paws of Central PA will help finance the purchase of the dog and any extraordinary veterinary costs.
Two people were presented checks at Sunday’s ceremony. One of those checks went to Brian Weber. Brian’s service dog, Vinny, helps him with his epilepsy. Vinny can sense when Brian is about to have a seizure. Brian’s wife Abby said that he’d gained more independence since Vinny came into his life.
“Mr. Joe is a blessing in that way that now Brian can go do his collectible toy store without me being there,” Abby Weber said.
Another client that attended the event was Tiahna Kovarik and her service dog, Harp. Harp helps Kovarik with her dizziness and sensory issues. Similar to Brian, she has gained more independence and a sense of empowerment.
“I’m really grateful that this organization is here and that it helps everyone, and I’m just glad to say I’m a part of it,” Kovarik said.
Fagnani said that he’s glad he can make a change in people’s lives and continue to watch the organization grow. The team raised over $50,000 within this year. That’s the highest they’ve ever raised. Fagnani says that before the end of the year, the non-profit may hit $90,000.
“That’s just as much money as we bought in the first eight years,” Fagnani said. “So, that’s what I’m saying that it’s become geometric that the income we’re bringing into the organization. And that’s with the overwhelming support and the community.”
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