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Service Paws plans check presentations

Courtesy photos Brandon Hill is shown with his dog, Zeke, and Nicole Horn is shown with Velvet. Both service dogs were provided by New Hope Assistance Dogs with support of Service Paws of Central PA.

Local residents invited to attend event

Service Paws of Central PA (SPCP) will conduct a check presentation ceremony on April 15 at the new United Veterans Association (UVA) Club.

The group will be presenting two checks totaling $16,000 to New Hope Assistance Dogs for Branden Hill and Nicole Horn.

The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 15 at the UVA Club at 1809 Union Ave., Altoona.

Branden Hill is a disabled Marine veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2008. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury and also some physical disabilities.

Courtesy photos Brandon Hill is shown with his dog, Zeke, and Nicole Horn is shown with Velvet. Both service dogs were provided by New Hope Assistance Dogs with support of Service Paws of Central PA.

“Being in Afghanistan for about a year, everything seemed normal; however, when I got back to the States that’s when the real war began, with flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety. I was at my lowest point at that time and didn’t want to live anymore with the war within my head.

“Another Marine buddy of mine told me I should see about getting a service dog to help with my PTSD and anxiety triggers especially out in public in large crowds. After doing some searching online, I came across SPCP and spoke with Joe. I told Joe exactly why I needed a service dog and asked him if he could help me in any way.

“A week or so went by and Joe called and referred me to New Hope Assistance Dogs located in Warren, Pa. After speaking with New Hope they said they have a dog ready to be trained with me.

“Zeke was a year old and was in a prison training program and already had advanced training. When I picked up Zeke, we had an instant connection and bond. It’s like Zeke knew I was in need of some help. Zeke has been a true blessing for me.

“He helps me with my PTSD and anxiety triggers. I feel more comfortable being in larger crowds now with him by my side, letting me know that everything is alright. He is the smartest dog I know and he is truly a life saver! I can’t thank Joe and SPCP enough for helping me find Zeke and all the donations to make it possible for me to have him.”

Nicole Horn struggles with PTSD and Asperger’s Syndrome. She needed a service dog to help with severe anxiety (especially when she’s out in public), panic attacks, frequent nightmares which contribute to her ongoing issues with insomnia and hallucinations.

“I also have a history of seizures in which I fully lose consciousness and fainting spells that add some challenges to my daily life.

“Since pairing with Velvet through New Hope Assistance Dogs Inc., my anxiety in public has lessened. When I feel a panic attack coming on, she provides deep pressure therapy by either leaning against me when I’m standing or by getting in my lap if I’m sitting which helps to calm me down.

“I’m also sleeping better at night because she sleeps with me and will get on top of me and lick me when I awaken from a nightmare which calms me immediately instead of leading to a full-blown panic attack and sleepless night as they have in the past. She has also been able to detect when I was going to have a seizure or fainting spell and has alerted me by nudging me with her paw.

“We have a very close bond. I couldn’t imagine my life without her. She has made so many things in my life so much easier and has improved my quality of life from something as simple as helping me sleep to enabling me to go about daily tasks like running errands and shopping. We make a great team! I’m very thankful to have Velvet in my life.

“We’d like to have local businesses sponsor a client by committing to purchase a dog for one of our clients,” said Joe Fagnani, chairman of Service Paws of Central PA.

“We also are looking for board members who have talents to help our cause and are passionate about what service dogs can do to help people with disabilities.

“Please join us at the fifth annual PAWing IT FOREward golf tournament on July 22. For more information, visit our Facebook page.

“We want to make sure that you know that 96% of all funds that we collect go directly to helping our clients.”

During the check presentation ceremony, SPCP wants to share with the donors how their contributions have helped to make people more independent.

There will be many local dignitaries, SPCP board members, clients, representatives from New Hope Assistance Dogs, donors and friends in attendance. There will be light refreshments. RSVP by April 12.

For more information or to make a donation, contact Joe Fagnani, chairman, Service Paws of Central PA, 413 58th St., Altoona, PA 16602; 814-940-0270; email servicepawsofcentralpa@gmail.com or visit the group on

Facebook facebook.com/servicepawsofcentralpa or website at servicepawsofcentralpa.org.

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