gmhTODAY Winter 2023 - Page 63

todd and ivy win Purina Visible Impact Award

Above : Veteran Todd Lunn and his service dog Ivy receive the Purina " Visible Impact Award " on live TV at Purina ' s Nationa Dog Show . Top right : Todd and wife Michelle with Ivy . Bottom right : Operation Freedom Paws Executive Director , Mary Cortani with Todd , Ivy , and Purina Rep .

In the Fall issue of gmhTODAY we shared the powerful story of Army veteran / retired firefighter Todd Lunn and his service dog , Ivy , trained and mentored by local nonprofit , Operation Freedom Paws in San Martin . Ivy , a Great Pyrenees rescue , was one of only five national finalists in Purina ’ s first-ever “ Visible Impact Award ” recognizing the vital role service dogs play in the lives of veterans with PTSD . We asked our readers to please support the vote and thanks to this community and beyond , Ivy won !

Todd and Ivy , his wife Michelle Lunn , and Mary Cortani , the founder and Executive Director of Operation Freedom Paws , were all flown out by Purina to attend “ The National Dog Show ” in Philadelphia . On Saturday November 19th , in front of a live audience , Ivy was honored as the recipient of the “ Visible Impact Award ” with her proud handler by her side and Michelle and Mary cheering them on . Cortani remarked , “ We ’ re grateful for the recognition of Todd and Ivy as this year ’ s winners of the Purina Visible Impact Award because it brings attention to the importance of service dogs helping veterans with disabilities . While attending ‘ The National Dog Show ’ and watching Todd receive the award , I was reminded of why we do what we do every day .”
The Purina award provides significant gifts to Todd Lunn and Operation Freedom Paws . Todd will personally receive a $ 10,000 cash prize and Operation Freedom Paws will receive $ 25,000 toward their mission . It costs approximately $ 20,000 to match and put a service dog team through their 48-week program , at no cost to that individual . Cortani further shared her gratitude by saying , “ We can ’ t say enough about the amazing treatment and attention that the Purina folks put into making sure we had a fabulous experience and felt valued . It ’ s a wonderful team of caring humans .”
Lunn reflected on his journey to this moment with his service dog Ivy his side , “ This award is the culmination of all the work and dedication of incredible people that care and support Vets and first responders . The award should honestly have the names of hundreds of people who had enough love to reach out to a man that had lost his way .” Lunn continued , “ Every time I look in Ivy ’ s eyes when having a bad day I see all the people that God put in my life to help me come back from my hell . This award that Ivy received should be a beacon of hope for the thousands of other men and women who think they are alone , discarded and not loved . Don ’ t give up , there is a way to get out of your darkness , it may not be my way or someone else ’ s way , but you are worth it .”
If you would like to consider a tax-deductible donation this giving season to help save two lives , one team at a time , go to : operationfreedompaws . org .
gmhtoday . com gmhTODAY Magazine WINTER 2023 63