Alexandria taps canine love to help veterans

Stephen and Jen Szymanski pose with their dog Ranger, a white golden retriever during the Olde Towne Dog Walk Sunday in Alexandria. (WTOP/Kathey Stewart)

Kathy Stewart, wtop.com

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Old Town Alexandria is known for being one of the most friendly dog towns in the D.C. area. And now Old Town is mixing its love for dogs with its love for veterans.

Saturday morning, Market Square was filled with dogs and their owners ready to take advantage of the gorgeous day and participate in the the sixth-annual “Olde Towne Dog Walk.”

The Old Town Crier addressed the dogs and their owners and he rang in the event by announcing that the proceeds from this year’s walk will go to Veterans Moving Forward.

The non-profit provides service dogs to veterans at no cost, says Karen Jefferies, a Navy veteran who founded the two-year old organization.

She says the mission of the non-profit is to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, and those recovering from traumatic brain injury among other issues.

Bobby Mahoney founded the 1.5-mile walk and owns Capitol Heel, a small, dog-walking business in Alexandria. He says money raised from past walks was donated to a local animal shelter. This year’s walk raised more than $15,000 for “Veterans Moving Forward.”

The walk will continue working with Veterans Moving Forward in the future, says Mahoney, who is happy they could help raise funds for the group in Alexandria.

He holds a special place for veterans and raising money for this charity.

“It melts my heart,” he says. “It absolutely melts my heart. And I am grateful for our veterans.”

Dogs have a way of reaching struggling veterans in a way that medicine can’t touch, and without the side effects, he says.

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