Our chain of heroes

by Dr. Jody Sandler, BluePath President and CEO

Sometimes life can be a challenge. Navigating some of the obstacles that others put in front of us can seem like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. And yet, I have the honor of calling Randy Pierce, a blind mountain climber, my friend. You see, Randy has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. And many other mountains in his life (both literally and figuratively). And through his non profit 2020 Vision Quest, he motivates others to step around the obstacles that are common in life and achieve anything that you allow yourself to dream. He is, quite simply, a hero.

It is with what Randy taught me that BluePath Service Dogs was conceived and launched (along with a few fellow heroes I have the joy of working with). And as a result, I have discovered a chain of heroes. Every day people doing extraordinary good to benefit others. On two feet and on four feet.

A selfless volunteer, Renee was one of the important people involved in an incredible effort to help children with autism remain safe and have the opportunity to achieve what some may see as simple goals, but in reality, are like climbing Kilimanjaro. Renee drove five future BluePath dogs to catch a flight to bring them north to New York, so that they could achieve their destiny with a family in need of their help. Renee is one of those every day heroes. Thank you, Renee.

Sometimes, the stars align. It can seem like the universe intentionally puts someone in your field of view for good reason and you realize that humans have an amazing capacity to come together to show the dogs that we do understand what they are trying to teach us every day. And so it happened that two gentlemen, simple and unassuming, appeared in our line of sight.

Paul Steklenski, an Army veteran, pilot and founder of Flying Fur Animal Rescue, stepped into view. Flying Fur flies north to find forever homes for shelter dogs in danger of being euthanized. One flight at a time in a small airplane, and often more than once a week, Paul loads his Cessna with dogs that have little hope of survival and single handedly flies them to safety and a new home. Truly a Herculean effort.

When I reached out to Paul after reading about his organization, to see if he would be willing to fly our BluePath puppies north to us, he jumped at the opportunity. Again, the stars aligned, the weather cooperated, and on a perfect day for flying a small plane, our puppies arrived at Dutchess County Airport from North Carolina to begin their journey to help a child. It was even an inaugural voyage for a new plane that Flying Fur had just been able to purchase through the generosity of their donors, and a copilot flew along to assist with getting the puppies here. Thank you Paul. You are truly a hero in so many more ways than one.

And the final person in our chain of heroes is Charlie Petrizzo , the founder of our nonprofit partner, Project 2 Heal. Charlie's mission through his organization is to provide purpose bred labrador retriever puppies to a small number of worthy and reputable organizations that train service dogs for children with autism and for veterans. Charlie came to us strictly by happenstance and it was a match made in heaven for BluePath. Charlie, his wife Sandy, and their amazing staff work 365 days a year to provide amazing puppies to help those who need to climb that mountain. Charlie's own personal story is quite like no other. His motivation to do this work is better told by him, and you can find his story on the Project2Heal website. Thank you Charlie and Sandy for the work you do to improve the lives of people that you and your puppies touch.

To all of the volunteers and donors supporting BluePath Service Dogs, Project2Heal, Flying Fur Animal Rescue and 2020 Vision Quest, you are each a link in the chain of heroes. Without you, none of us could do what we do. Thank you all for walking the path with us.