November 13, 2013

Indianapolis, IN [November 13, 2013]- ICAN was recently selected as one of the Accelerator Charities for Tony's Grant Accelerator by the Tony Stewart Foundation (TSF).  The grant was in the amount of $15,000. Tony's Grant Accelerator was established to encourage fans to nominate a charity they believe is providing programs or services to children or animals in an extraordinary manner.  Following review of the nominations, TSF extended an invitation to nominees to complete a full grant application. This year's final grant recipients included 47 organizations in 17 different states.  To learn more about this year's recipients, visit http://www.tonystewartfoundation.org/accelcharities2013.php.

Jillian Miller, Executive Director, said, “We are extremely grateful to the Tony Stewart Foundation to be chosen as a recipient of the Accelerator Charities.  The money from this grant will provide much needed support in training professionally skilled assistant dogs to help reduce the number of applicants on our waiting list in need of a service dog.''

November 13, 2013

Indianapolis, IN [November 13, 2013]- ICAN was recently selected to receive a grant from the Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL) through their Power Grants program. This program gives IPL employees an opportunity to nominate an organization that they are passionate about and fits into one or more of the company's five giving areas; community enhancement, economic development, education, environment, and arts and culture.

Jillian Miller, Executive Director, said, “We are extremely grateful to Indianapolis Power & Light Company to be chosen as a recipient of the Power Grants program.  The money from this grant will provide much needed support in training professionally skilled assistant dogs to help reduce the number of applicants on our waiting list that are in need of a service dog.''

November 11, 2013

Nick & Festus (Photo by Ed Stewart)

On June 20th, 2013, ICAN proudly graduated its 100th service dog team. Making that accomplishment even more special was the fact that the team was ICAN's first placement with a combat wounded veteran. Staff Sergeant Nick Bennett, USMC retired, came to us looking for assistance with two challenges that resulted from his combat tours in Iraq. Severely injured when a mortar exploded only a few yards behind him, Nick was left with serious mobility limitations. The loss of muscle in his right leg made keeping his balance difficult, and made bending to pick something up from the floor or tie his 3-year-old son's shoes nearly impossible. We were happy to be able to tell Nick that we could definitely train a dog to help him keep from falling, to pick things up that he might drop, and to help him up from the floor after he tied his son's shoes. 

Nick's second challenge was one that we had not trained a dog for yet. Understandably, his experiences in combat left him with serious PTSD. Whenever he heard even the simplest noise, like fireworks, or had to stand in line at the grocery store, Nick's brain and body reacted as though he was back in combat in Iraq. Though he'd had years of therapy, Nick still had flashbacks several times a day, each one causing him to withdraw and become unable to interact with the world around him. Nick's wife Rachel worried about leaving him alone, and they both worried about what might happen if he was alone with their son and unresponsive.

Neither Nick nor Rachel had ever imagined that a dog would change everything. Enter Festus, a 2-year-old Red Fox Labrador Retriever with a big personality and an immediate understanding of Nick's needs. Within minutes of their first meeting, Festus was positioning himself just right to brace Nick as he lowered himself to the floor, and then to support him as he stood back up. When Nick dropped his keys, Festus picked them up, quickly learning to return them to Nick's most functional right hand. Wearing his special harness, Festus confidently bears Nick's weight when they walk together, keeping him balanced and right on track. Even more life changing, Festus recognizes the first signs of a flashback in Nick.  Nudging him gently on the leg or arm, Festus brings Nick back to the present, keeping the panic that Nick used to feel at bay. On a special cue – Tail Man – Festus positions himself behind Nick at the grocery store or anywhere else that Nick needs some extra space. When they get home, Festus is first in the door, checking each room to make sure that nothing will startle Nick. Best of all, Rachel and Nick don't have to worry about Nick being alone anymore. With Festus around, he never will be. 

ICAN salutes the service and sacrifice of all veterans. It has been our honor and privilege to work with Staff Sergeant Bennett, and we continue to move forward in assisting other veterans by providing them a service dog.

Nick with his son & Festus

Nick & Festus at the War Memorial

To learn Nick & Festus' story, please see our video A Hero for a Hero.

To read Nick's article in The Huntington Post, Click Here.

To read about Nick's visit at Pendleton Correctional Faclity, Click Here.


October 1, 2013

Pendleton, Indiana-(October 1, 2013)–The Pendleton Correctional Facility (PCF) was recently honored to have Iraq War Veteran Marine Corps Sergeant Nicholas Bennett visit the facility to meet with offenders associated with the facility's Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN) program  and members of the PCF Offender American Legion Organization.

Sergeant Bennett was seriously injured during combat in Iraq in 2004 and in June of this year, he received a service dog from ICAN that was trained in the ICAN Program operating at the Indiana Women's Prison. Nick met with offenders and staff at PCF to demonstrate how his service dog is able to assist him with the day- to- day challenges he encounters. Nick provided a powerful presentation on how his service dog "Festus" has dramatically changed his life by providing him with balance and mobility assistance in addition to helping him cope with issues associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"This was a tremendous opportunity for our offenders to observe first hand a service dog in action and to see how their participation as handlers will positively impact and improve the quality of life of so many people," expressed PCF Superintendent Dushan Zatecky. "We consider it an honor to be able to participate in this outstanding community service endeavor and we want to express our appreciation to ICAN Officials for allowing us the opportunity to be involved in the program and also for arranging Sergeant Bennett's visit to our facility," added Superintendent Zatecky.

PCF is extremely pleased to have been provided the opportunity to implement an ICAN Program at the facility. The mission of ICAN is to train and place assistance dogs with persons with disabilities throughout the state of Indiana. Twelve PCF offenders have been selected to serve as ICAN handlers and train dogs for the ICAN program.

Photo provided of Marine Corps Veteran Nicholas Bennett and his service dog Festus

August 21, 2013

Prior to each ICAN Graduation Ceremony, two weeks of Team Training is held at the Indiana Women's Prison. Team Training is when the ICAN handlers and clients are brought together by the dogs. As the handlers share their knowledge of each dog with the clients, friendships and memories are made that will last a lifetime. For the ICAN handlers, Team Training is an ending. The dogs they have worked with are now ready to enter the working world with their new partners. For the ICAN clients, Team Training is the beginning of a wonderful partnership. In the months and years to come, ICAN will continue to provide training and support to our new working teams, but for now, they are off to a great start.

Team Training is an exhausting and yet vitalizing experience. Watching two years of hard work result in a new service dog team is something truly beyond words. It is one of the best examples of how ICAN is unleashing abilities and changing lives on both ends of the leash.

ICAN had a special reason to celebrate at June's Graduation Ceremony. We graduated our 100th placement! Festus, a Red Fox Labrador Retriever, was placed with Nick, a combat injured veteran. In addition to balance and mobility assistance, Festus learned several behaviors that will help Nick with the symptoms of PTSD.

In all, seven amazing and talented dogs graduated in a ceremony at the Indiana Women's Prison. In addition to Festus, June's graduates included Tony, Smitty, Gracie, Makenna, Maude, and Lark. 

photos by Ed Stewart

Cheryl and Tony

Chris and Smitty

Alex and Maude
with Handler Sonya

Barb and Gracie
with Handler Shauna

Nick and Festus

Rachael and McKenna

Linda and Lark

Tony will provide Facility Assistance to Cheryl who works as a Prosecuting Attorney in northern Indiana; Lark will provide Facility Assistance to Linda, who works as a occupational therapist at Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana; Gracie will help detect low blood sugars as a Diabetic Alert Dog for Barb and will also provide her mobility assistance; Smitty will provide mobility assistance to Chris; and Maude and McKenna will provide Autism Assistance to Alexander and Rachel.

A special congratulations also goes to the following ICAN Handlers at IWP who completed 3,600 hours of training to receive their Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship as Animal Trainer from the United States Department of Labor.  Congratulations Lara, Nanette, Talia, Krista, Betsy, Shauna and Heather!


Team Training Volunteers
ICAN Handlers at Correctional Industrial Facility in Pendleton
ICAN Handlers at Indiana Women's Prison
Becky Andrade
Maureen Kiley
Melissa McCoy
Linda Johnson
Amanda Hessel
Pat Clark
Jennifer Boyle Warner
Mary Hardin
Cyndy Burnett
Bev McNeely
Sandy Burnett
David Brimm
Steve Jones
Peggy Jones
Mike Grindstaff
Jan Platz
Eve Hitchings
Jillian Miller
Jennifer McVey
Tammy Foloran
Barbara Shortle
Beth Edwards
Jean Blackwell
Sharon Miller
Michelle J.

Assistant Dogs International Trainers
Marilyn Lazarus, Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence, Sylvania, OH
Linda Ball, Executive Director of PawPads – Positive Perspective Assistance Dogs, Minneapolis, MN
Bar Calhoon, Paws with A Cause, Colorado

Jamie Young
Project to Heal – Charlie Petrizzo
Gloria Lane Doodle Darlings – Kristin Phillips
Cedar Hill Labradoodles – Theresa Escue

ICAN Dog Sponsors
John and Diane Render
Cyndy and Scott Burnett
Virginia Neff
Pam Hruby
Brian Smith
Colin Maiorano

ICAN Graduation Greeters
Shirl Henderson
Sandy Burnett
Maureen Kiley
Peggy Jones
Steve Jones
Mary Hardin
Wendy Wright
Mary Matthews

Liz Kaye
Ed Stewart
Thomas Lewey, Assistant

Thank you for your generous contribution to our Team Training Lunches, Sound/Stage and Graduation Supplies! 
Norman Swift
Maureen Kiley
Virginia Neff
Shawn Curran
The Shryock Family
Steve and Peggy Jones
Jennifer Boyle Warner
Patti Cripe and Family
Jerilynn Watkins
Patricia Rumbaugh
Caroline Martinez
Carol Trice
John and Diane Render
Sandi Holubik
Joseph Winkle & Staff
Bobbie Buckles
Don and Robin Campbell
Patricia and Frank Hart
Mary Lee Koppelman
Barbara Bougher
Jason Alexander
Avon Chilpolte
Clarion Waterfront
Catherine Gibbs
Papa Murphy Pizza
Sam's Club
Texas Roadhouse

A special thanks to Commissioner Bruce Lemmons and Public Relations Officer, Doug Garrison, of the Indiana Department of Corrections, Superintendent Steve McCauley of Indiana Women's Prison (IWP), Carol Foster, Program Coordinator at IWP, Lora Schmalfeldt of IWP, Tammy Atwood, Community Outreach Program at IWP, the entire staff of Correctional Industrial Facility, Indiana Women's Prison and Pendleton Reformatory Prison, and most of all, to our ICAN Handlers.  Also, a big thanks to the women of the Community Outreach Program at Indiana's Women Prison for hand crafting the dog bed and gifts for our clients. This program serves the homeless, disabled, elderly and children by making mosquito nets, sleeping bags, toys, clothing and other necessities in Indiana, Ecuador, Honduras, Kenya and South Africa.