Final Project: Holiday Spirit

Published: December 13, 2020


K9s For Warriors is Giving Veterans a New Leash on Life

Published: Nov. 15, 2020


K9s For Warriors is the nation’s largest service dog provider for American Veterans struggling with service-connected post-traumatic stress (PTSD), traumatic brain injury and military sexual trauma. 

Warrior trainers and service dogs walking in St. Augustine. Photo courtesy of K9s For Warriors.

The program was founded in 2011 by Shari Duval. Her son, Brett Simon, a veteran K9 police officer, worked as a contractor for the Department of the Army. He was a bomb dog handler and served two tours in Iraq. When Brett returned home he struggled with PTSD.

Donor Relations Associate, Elizabeth Reeger explains, 

“His mom noticed this change in him. She described it [saying] ‘the lights were on, but nobody was home,’” said Reeger. 

His mom noticed that when he was working with his dog he seemed more comfortable, and this is what sparked the idea of K9s For Warriors. 

The original goal was to pair one warrior with a service dog every month, but they quickly realized one pair a month was not sufficient enough. In 2015, Camp K9 opened up in Ponte Vedra, Florida, which allows for 12 warriors a month.

Each month, the 12 warriors arrive at Camp K9 for a three-week, in-house training program that is 100% free to them.

Training in a store. Photo courtesy of K9s For Warriors

Greg Wells, a graduate of the program, said,

“You get your dog Monday and then you start training. Then, the next day after that you’re going out every morning, and you’re going to the park or the beach. You’re gonna go to lunch somewhere in public, and then you’re going to go to stores in the afternoon. Then, in the later afternoon, you’re gonna come back to campus and do classroom lectures.”

Wells says his service dog Utah completely saved his life, and if it was not for him, he probably would not have been around much longer. 

Wells was once on 14 different medications. However, he said those medications made him feel like a “zombie.” Utah helped him return to a normal life and allowed him to “live for the moment.” 

As of October 2020, K9s For Warriors has rescued 647 warriors and 1,254 dogs. The nonprofit is not only saving veterans, they are saving the dogs as well. 

A service dog named Spirit. Photo courtesy of K9s For Warriors.

Roughly 90% of their service dogs come from shelters or are owner-surrendered. These dogs are given a new purpose – to rescue the warrior and then ultimately, the warrior rescues the dog. 

How a Local Couple is Baking our Beach a Better Place.

Published: Oct. 26, 2020


Jen Enzenbacher has always loved baking cookies whereas her husband Ray loves ice cream, so they would always make ice cream cookie sandwiches at home. In June 2019, the couple decided to take their love for ice cream cookie sandwiches and turn it into a local business.

Husband and wife, Ray and Jen Enzenbacher. Photo courtesy of Cookies and Creme.

 Cookies and Creme is tucked away next to a gas station in Jacksonville Beach at 241 13th Ave. N. Jen says that everything at the beach closes early and there’s not many places to get a sweet treat late at night. 

When you walk into the shop, you feel right at home, and that is exactly what Ray and Jen wanted their shop to feel like. They wanted to create a place that they would have wanted to hang out in as children, and a place where people could come and just be themself and enjoy cookies and ice cream.

“I’ve had many offers to sell alcohol here,” said Ray. “Big vendors have come in and said we’ll give you so much for free and I’m like well, that’s not what this place is about. This place is about families, it’s about your relationships with your friends and having a place that is safe, so you can enjoy the evening.”

Cookies and Creme menu, which changes every day. Courtesy: Cookies and Creme.

Jen makes homemade cookies in a variety of flavors. She said she makes just about anything you can think of. Some of their most popular cookies are their chocolate chip cookies and stuffed and unstuffed Oreo cookies. 

Ray makes the ice cream in-house, which also comes in a variety of flavors. Customers can order an ice cream cookie sandwich, just cookies or just ice cream. Also, they recently just started shake night. 

Ray is a U.S. Navy veteran. He served four years in the Navy and comes from a family of veterans, so he wanted to do something special to support the military. Thus, they came up with a unique pay it forward program.

Customers put money on the wall, then when someone who is an active duty military personnel comes in, the money is taken down and used to buy their sweet treat. 

Ray and Jen are all about supporting the community and do everything they can to help. For example, Ray and Jen have helped local schools with fundraisers. They also allow local artists to hang their artwork on the wall to sell at the artist’s own price – asking for nothing in return. 

Wall of people who have completed the challenge and those who failed. Photo by Sydnee Batzlaff.

They also have the Big Head Challenge, where you have to eat three cookies and four scoops of ice cream in just three minutes. If you are able to complete the challenge, your photo goes on the wall and your ice cream cookie sandwich is free. If you do not finish, you must pay $10, but your picture still goes on the wall. So far, only five people have ever completed the challenge.

Ice cream sandwich from Cookies and Creme. Courtesy: Cookies and Creme.

Even with the coronavirus pandemic, Cookies and Creme has been able to stay afloat. They have moved to serving at the door and have set up tables outside for customers. Ray says that the community has continued to support them and they still have nights where the line is out the door.

“We didn’t know what we were getting into and then covid came along,” said Ray. “Then, we didn’t know what we were doing, so we didn’t know if we were messing up or doing great, but all we’re literally doing is trying to make it one day at a time and sell the next ice cream cookie sandwich – that’s it.“