Weigel’s raised enough money to provide a service dog to a veteran through the “More Wags for Warriors” program of Smoky Mountain Service Dogs. Weigel’s leadership team members joined with guests Tuesday (7/9) to celebrate the achievement.
“We are excited that our customers and employees have made it possible to raise and train one service dog. We are honored to be able to aid the men and women who have served our country,” said Bill Weigel.
Daniel Belcher, who was injured during military service in Desert Storm, brought his dog, Stryker, to the press conference. His wife, Michelle, and daughter, Olivia, also attended. Stryker has lived with the Belcher family in Corryton for four years.
Michelle Belcher said Stryker helps by picking up things, a difficult task for Daniel Belcher with his hip injury. The dog can carry groceries into the house and drag a laundry basket.
Laurie Birt, a member of the board of directors for Smoky Mountain Service Dogs, brought her dog Hooligan, a 5-year-old ambassador for the program.
Mike Kitchens, who chairs the board, thanked Weigel’s for its support and said a capital campaign is underway to expand the group’s Loudon County kennel from six to 18 dogs.
“We’ll be there,” said Bill Weigel, longtime CEO and now board chair for the company his father and uncle founded. Also present were Weigel’s son, Kurt; Ken McMullen, company CEO; and Douglas Yawberry, company president and COO.
Smoky Mountain Service Dogs was established in October 2010. It placed its first service dog in 2013 and now has served over 25 veterans and their families. The dogs are provided at no cost to veterans in need. Training includes help for veteran-related disabilities such as navigation and mobility. It costs about $22,000 to raise and train each dog.