The Florida Panthers Foundation's Community Champions Grant Program allows charitable organizations throughout South Florida to request financial support for programs and initiatives that are benefiting our community. Here are their stories.
It's been three months since Kathleen Greer met her new best friend and service dog, Bo.
With the help of the Rocky Mountain Dawgs Project and the Florida Panthers Foundation, Greer was surprised with Bo, a sixth-month old Giant Schnauzer, at center ice of BB&T Center prior to Florida's game against the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 3 - a touching and emotional moment.
"I'm very thankful for this organization," Greer said at the time. "I'm beyond thankful. I'm beyond thankful to War Dogs and beyond thankful to the Panthers. This wouldn't be happening if it wasn't for both of them."
As part of the Florida Panthers Community Champions Grant Program, the Rocky Mountain Dawgs Project was awarded $22,500 to help further the organization's goal of providing service dogs to veterans who are unable to afford the traditionally high cost of ownership and training.
With that donation, the Rocky Mountain Dawgs Project was able to pair Greer with Bo at no cost.
"I'm just amazed with him," said Greer, a former Panthers season ticket holder. "I'm very thankful that I've got him, and he's beautiful, and his training seems to be going along really well, and I know he's going to make a huge difference for me."
In catching up with Greer, it's clear that Bo is already making the difference she'd hope for.
A veteran of more than 25 years in the United States Army active and reserves - "25 years, 7 months and 11 days," she said, to be exact - Greer suffers from several disabilities that make her day-to-day life difficult, including anxiety, depression and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
The Panthers previously honored Greer through the club's Heroes Among Us program in 2014.
"There are days where it's hard for me to get up and get going," Greer said in a recent telephone interview. "With Bo, he makes me. It really gives me a focus and a purpose."
With Bo, Greer said she's slowly becoming more active and engaged. The two normally go for at least three walks a day around her community, with games of fetch also becoming a common occurrence in the backyard because, of course, "he loves to catch a ball just like any other dog."
"Even though he's a service dog, he's still a dog and he's still a puppy," Greer said. "He's got plenty of energy, which really the fact that he's so energetic forces me to get active. I have issues with my foot, so I don't do a lot. He's really started me to force me to do more."
For the past three months, Greer has been going through what the Rocky Mountain Dawgs Project describes as the "bonding stage," where Bo spends most of his time simply growing accustomed to Greer's anxiety and issues. Once they relate emotionally, training will begin.
That emotional bonding, Greer said, was evident during one of her recent trips to the VA.
"I got upset and started crying," she said. "He got right up and started kissing my face."
With Bo's support, Greer said she'll also soon be sewing a special Panthers jersey for her new canine companion, one custom-fitted to his unique dog dimensions that also proudly showcases his special service dog patch so that everyone they meet will know more about their story.
"Everyone is always saying, 'What a beautiful dog. How did you get him? Where did you get him?'" Greer said. "I always tell them I have Rocky Mountain Dawgs and the Panthers to thank."
As their bond continues to blossom, Greer believes Bo will continue to help her lead a better life.
"It takes the focus of your issues and makes it easier to get through the day because you know that you have a dog to take care of," Greer said. "The dog is there for you 100 percent of the time. It really changes your focus and helps you to stop thinking about the negative things of your disability and helps you get more back into a normal, productive routine."