Member Spotlight: Freedom Fidos

November 10, 2014 at 8:35 am Leave a comment

BrinksMatt Burgess’ service dog Brinks – like the security system – couldn’t be more aptly named. Among other tasks Brinks wakes his owner, and founder of the nonprofit Freedom Fidos, up during the night when Burgess’ sleep apnea causes him to stop breathing.

Freedom Fidos provides task-trained service dogs and the promise of lifelong support for veterans and disabled children.

Burgess served in the Army and was deployed to Bosnia and Macadonia in the mid-1990s. After Sept. 11, he was compelled to serve his country again with the National Guard and deployed to Iraq in 2003. He had an adverse reaction to mandatory vaccines and blast explosions in Iraq resulted in multiple, traumatic brain injuries that continue to cause pain more than a decade later.

After injury forced him to retire from the military, he said he used several resources including counseling and had a great support system, but still didn’t feel self-reliant.

“I had a great support system, but something was missing,” he said. “Once I got Brinks as my service dog, that final slice was given to me. That’s Freedom Fidoswhat a lot of veterans and people with disabilities are going through right now.”

Fueled by compassion for his compatriots and noticing the need for service dogs, Burgess started Freedom Fidos in June 2014. Since its founding, the nonprofit has teamed up three dogs with two veterans and a child, is currently working with four veterans and has 12 more on a waiting list.

“There’s a huge need,” Burgess said of matching service dogs to veterans. “We’re averaging a call a day of someone looking for a service dog.”

Burgess said helping others gain the independence and confidence that he found with Brinks is the most fulfilling job and the goal of Freedom Fidos.

Training the dogs can take up to two years and costs the nonprofit about $4,000 per dog. Burgess prefers to find dogs at Grand Strand area shelters, but in some instances will work with a dog a veteran already owns. The veterans must meet criteria set by the Freedom Fidos’ board of directors.

Burgess said no veteran or child under age 16 will be charged, but must be willing to invest the time the intensive training requires to become a service dog handler.

For more information or to make a donation visit freedomfidos.org.

by Amanda Blomquist, executive membership coordinator, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce

Entry filed under: Member News.

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