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In recognition of clearing a $22,000 fundraising goal needed for pairing a Guardian Angels Medical Service Dog with a deserving local veteran, a group of Oakmont Rochester residents and their families were proud of the effort and ecstatic with the results.

“When it comes to the things veterans experience, you can’t go through it without it changing you,” said T.L., a member of the Merchant Marines during World War II. “So doing what you can to help, that will make a difference.”

Many Oakmont residents gathered to watch at Oakmont Rochester as veterans from American Legion Post 253 and American Legion District 18 each presented checks for $2,500 each, making the difference in the fundraising efforts.

Evangeline, who was sitting with a table of fellow Oakmont Rochester residents, was beaming at the end result of the service dog fundraising campaign.

“My husband was a veteran of World War II,” she said. “They were the real heroes. We support the whole world, but we have to take care of our veterans, too.”

The local American Legion groups grew more and more involved with this project.

Ron Mexicott, a veteran with Royal Oak Post 253, said he was involved with getting a flag to fly in front of Oakmont Rochester Assisted. Later, he helped get a flag for neighboring Oakmont Rochester Independent. He then heard about the idea of a fundraiser to place a service dog with a veteran.

“I went to our American Legion and told them, they’re trying to raise $22,000 for a dog. So I asked for $2,500,” he said. He didn’t plan on getting the whole amount approved for the fundraiser. “But they said, ‘ok.’ Just like that.”

News of this was later brought up at a district meeting. An additional donation of $2,500 was made to match the Post 253 donation.

“We took on an ambitious project, to honor our seniors, but especially our veterans in our own Oakmont Senior Communities,” said Martha Teller, director of sales and marketing. “After many discussions of how best to honor our veterans, we were fortunate to meet with a wonderful organization, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs. Their work in pairing their highly-trained dogs with veterans is simply unparalleled.”

The eight Oakmont Communities participated in various fundraisers to pay for the majority of the original goal.

Teller was grateful to “our seniors, who unselfishly gave of their own limited dollars and cents because they believed in a mission we set forth as an organization,” she said. “More importantly, they believed in supporting each other.”

Jolanthe Bassett, a Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs regional representative, was grateful for the effort.

“Thank you to Oakmont Communities for your donations for this service dog, Whiskey,” she said, explaining a veteran will be coming to Oakmont Rochester in the fall with their new companion. “Our service dogs are changing lives, not only for their recipients, but for their family and for their community.”

The physical and emotional stress felt by many veterans is enormous. Often, there are high rates of many serious issues, including suicide, divorce and substance abuse. The presence of Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs has made an enormous difference in preventing such traumas.

The recognition of all veterans and awareness of the struggles many face after their service was appreciated by Jim, an Oakmont Rochester resident. In World War II, he served in the Navy. “I don’t think you can acknowledge them enough,” he said. “The attention they deserve, this is good. Something like this, it strikes the heart.”