I honestly think that when people have a chance to do “good” that they will. We are Americans, that is what we do. Rick and Jennifer saw a need, and are now working to fill it. Again, I believe it’s because we are Americans, and Americans are charitable by nature. Being part of AHH myself, I get to help and be part of something that helps veterans and brings people closer together. I pray that you will read this article, and be inspired to volunteer. Do something that helps your fellow man. Believe me, it’s an incredible blessing. — Joe
Alaska’s Healing Grounds would like to welcome you to a proactive and compassionate organization, with folks dedicated to the principle of helping our veterans through every phase of healing and reintegration: Introducing our newest partners — “Battle Dawgs Racing”!
Veterans who have been trained in warfare, served their country and have been wounded in the course of protecting our freedoms are used to an intense way of life most civilians aren’t familiar with. Serving in or around combat exposes our fighting forces to a powerful exhilaration over an extended period of time, and often cannot just be turned on and off. Warriors who are injured in armed conflict often continue carrying these feelings at a high level during rehabilitation or even after returning home from their time serving.
Battle Dawgs Racing is a professional Iditarod sled dog-racing kennel in Willow, Alaska, that has opened its doors and hearts to provide a healing ground for wounded veterans. The vision at Battle Dawgs Racing is “To expose our wounded heroes to therapeutic and exciting experiences by harnessing the natural splendor of Alaska’s landscape and the power of sled dogs. In doing so we are able to provide a natural portal to help rehabilitate the battled wounded and the battle weary.”
Filling that void in a positive, exciting and emotionally fulfilling manner is essential to the complete recuperation of many of our brave heroes returning from the battlefield. There is never enough that can be done to ease the pain of the physically wounded, and rebuild the spirit of those who gave so much to us here at home.
Rick and Jennifer Casillo own and operate Battle Dawgs Racing and are committed to an ideal of assisting veterans in a way which motivates physically, mentally and emotionally. Rick has been training sled dogs and hunting dogs for over 20 years and has been a professional musher (dogsled racer) for 10 years. Jennifer is a 15-year and counting U.S. Air Force Officer and civilian helicopter pilot.
Last month, Battle Dawgs Racing teamed up with Alaska’s Healing Hearts, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing outdoor rehabilitative programs for our wounded warriors. Battle Dawgs Racing has graciously invited Alaska’s Healing Hearts (AHH) to use their kennel at no cost as a sanctuary for wounded veterans.
Battle Dawgs provides the opportunity and has the passion and talent to instill responsibility, self-motivation, team building, and provide therapeutic outdoor rehabilitative experiences for those returning veterans who urgently need and deserve our very best efforts. These brave men and women will play a key role in the kennel’s preparation for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and the 2014 Yukon Quest, both 1,000-mile sled dog races in Alaska and Canada. It is a thrilling and affirmative way for our veterans to be involved in salutary activity, guided by outstanding and considerate personnel.
Rick moved to Alaska in 1999 as a fly fishing guide and to pursue his dream of running sled dogs. He became a professional musher in 2003 and is remarkably, a 4-time finisher of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Jennifer has served in the United States Force and has been an exceptional and devoted officer for 15 years and counting. She currently serves in the Alaska Air National Guard in their combat search and rescue unit and is also a civilian helicopter pilot, conducting glacier and dogsled tours in the summer.
Together they started Battle Dawgs Racing and are using it as a platform to promote, represent and raise awareness for our wounded warriors, making their partnership with AHH a natural fit.
When asked, “Why this cause?” Rick states, “Growing up I always wanted to be a U.S. Marine but was medically disqualified due to 13 major ear operations. I am finally in a position in life where I can use my skills and career to help those who have put everything on the line to protect our freedoms and way of life.” Jennifer says she has “witnessed first-hand the long term effects of war on our military men and women and am honored to be joining forces with Alaska’s Healing Hearts and contributing to their worthwhile cause.” Jennifer also added one our driving beliefs: “For a wounded veteran, the true battle just begins when they get home.”
At their kennel, from October thru April, veterans will be a part of the team and learn essential dog handling skills, mushing (dog sledding) techniques, winter camping skills, and coordinate and participate in numerous winter activities to include ice fishing, hunting, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing. Some of the warriors will then be given the opportunity to be the handlers (like Nascar’s pit crew) during the races throughout the winter. Very cool!
During the summer months, Rick and Jennifer transport the kennel over 4,000 ft. up a mountain and operate Aurora Heli-Expeditions, a helicopter supported dog-sled tour operation on a spectacular glacier located an hour north of Anchorage, Alaska. For the upcoming 2013 tour season, they have donated free helicopter excursions to our nation’s wounded warriors and their families to include glacier dog sledding, glacier trekking, and helicopter flightseeing tours.
Rick quotes “I am impressed with the professionalism and motivation I have found in AHH and partnering up with them gives a whole new depth of purpose to our kennel and business. There is no limit to positive impact you can have when you work together as a team and play on each other’s strengths and talents. I am very fortunate to be in a position where I can use my talents to help those who have sacrificed so much.”
Click through the links below for additional information on Battle Dawgs Racing, Alaska’s Healing Hearts, and Aurora Heli-Expeditions. There you can find out more on how to get involved with our goals to bring all our heroes all the way home. You will be so happy you did.
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