When I hit the age of the 60, I counted my blessings, beginning with my birthplace on Elizabeth Street on the lower Eastside of Manhattan, to Bensonhurst Brooklyn, then to Great Kills, Staten Island and finally to Spring Hill, Florida. Looking back on my life allowed me to move forward into its next rewarding chapter.
Growing up we never had much more than the necessities of life, but I never knew, nor felt that we were poor. I believe this was because I was raised with a love for God, family, country and to always give back. I am very proud of my accomplishments and my dedication to helping others, but still there has always been a void in my heart. I never had the chance to serve my countryl I was rejected from the navy due to colorblindness, so I decided at the age of 60 that the rest of my working life should be focused on helping those warriors who have served our country, our American veterans.
I put the word out to my business associates and friends and found out about Diane Scotland-Coogan, a professor at Saint Leo University, who volunteers at Give an Hour. She works with veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She has found that dogs as companions can be highly beneficial to those suffering from the disorder and she reached out to master dog trainer Mary Peter.
This became the start of K9 Partners for Patriots, a non-profit program. I visited the training and realized that this was my calling. Three years ago, I was honored and proud when I was elected to serve as Chairman of the Board of this wonderful organization. I cannot begin to express in this short article all that I have learned about PTSD. Suffice it to say that the connection between veterans and man’s best friend and the benefits of having a canine companion are profound.
This provided the motivation for me to start the Veterans H.E.A.T. Factory (Heat, Empowering, Assisting, Training), a non-profit organization. HEAT takes veterans through a physical fitness program combined with meetings and seminars addressing topics related to PTSD, such as health, wellness, managing anxiety and improving communication. The program provides a sense of purpose, awareness and helps to re-instill a drive in these veterans that sadly was lost with the onset of PTSD.
Veterans’ H.E.A.T Factory is located at 16230 Aviation Loop Drive in Brooksville, Florida 34604. Any veterans in the central Florida area that feel they are suffering from the disorder or are not sure if they are, should contact us at 352-796-4323. God Bless America and God Bless our Veterans!