Sheep Dog Impact Assistance Raises Over $160,000 at Heroes Gala

Sheep Dog Impact Assistance Recognizes Sheep Dogs of the Year and Raises Over $160,000 at Heroes Gala

Proceeds to Fund Programs to Help Reduce Suicides in Veteran/First Responder Communities

The tables have long been cleared and the floors have been swept, but the impact that the Sheep Dog Impact Assistance (SDIA) 7th Annual Heroes Gala had on its attendees on Saturday, April 27, was powerful. So powerful that the event raised more than $160,000, the proceeds of which will be used to fund Disaster Response Missions and sponsor Veterans and First Responders for Outdoor Adventures during 2019. Heroes Gala Emcee Aaron Mankin, USMC (Ret.), Honorary Chair David Scogin, Guest Speaker Cpl. Nick Perales, USMC (Ret.), Gold Star Mother Debbie Lee, and BlackGuard Customs founder and USMC veteran Cpl. Liam Fuller spoke to the crowd of over 500, touching the hearts of all who heard their stories.

Much like a military ball, the Heroes Gala began with an official ceremony, the posting of the colors, a cake-cutting ceremony, and the National Anthem, sung by friend, supporter and 2018 Southern Gospel Music Association of Texas’ Male Soloist of the Year, Ralph Green.

The ceremony included the presentation of SDIA’s Military, Law Enforcement, Fire & Rescue, and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) “Sheep Dog of the Year” awards. The 2018 awards went to:

  • Military Sheep Dog of the Year: SFC Nicholas Lavery – earning 3 Purple Hearts in Afghanistan during 2012-2013 (two for saving the lives of fellow soldiers, one for being severely wounded), he returned to active duty despite losing his right leg and deployed to Afghanistan, Africa and Lebanon. Lavery is currently working to be the first amputee Special Forces Warrant Officer in history.
  • Law Enforcement Sheep Dog of the Year: Officer Craig Klementz – a 26-year veteran of the Janesville Police Dept in Wisconsin, he has worked tirelessly to improve interactions between citizens and the Police Dept through new programs and initiatives, as well as his work with their Peer Support and Crisis Intervention Teams.
  • Fire & Rescue Sheep Dog of the Year: Lieutenant Cody Larque – as a Firefighter in Arkansas, he has worked very hard in his department and at school, receiving three degrees and working towards his Masters degree, and serving on the Searcy Fire Dept’s Accreditation Team and Special Operations Rescue Team. For his heroic actions in saving the life of a 9-month old, the City of Searcy proclaimed December 12, 2018, “Lieutenant Cody Larque Day” and he was named Searcy’s 2018 Firefighter of the Year.
  • EMS Sheep Dog of the Year: Paramedic Joshua Edwards – even though he has limited time off between his two back-to-back 24-hour shifts as a Firefighter and Paramedic, he works diligently to teach First Aid, CPR & Paramedic classes at the local college and for Police & Fire Depts, businesses, school districts, and churches to foster a sense of brotherhood and selflessness in participants so that they, too, will be inspired to serve. He was instrumental in putting together and teaching the first EMT Basic Course in the history of the Ft. Smith Fire Department.

Other awards presented during the VIP Reception, sponsored by Spectrum Brands, and later in the evening are:


Guest Speaker, Cpl. Nick Perales told of his experiences in the Marine Corps, and brought guests through the moment when he stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device, which severed his right leg and fractured many other bones, and sent fellow Marines flying through the air. Though he got momentarily choked up when telling about his brothers’ injuries, he took a moment, and true to his Marine grit, he adapted, overcame the emotions, and continued with his inspiring story.

“Getting blown up, that s— was easy. I literally just had to take a single step forward. Getting back up after that step forward…that s— was hard. I was bound to a wheelchair, undergoing multiple surgeries and an extensive rehabilitation process. I fell into a very dark place. I lost sight of who I was as a man, as a Marine. I became addicted to all the pain pills I was on. I spent every waking minute on narcotics. I was utilizing these drugs to escape reality, and escape life. I started skipping PT and OT appointments, because I was simply too f—ed up to get off the couch. I thought I had every excuse in the world. In reality, I didn’t have a single one.
[As the Marine Corps birthday neared], I remember looking in the mirror, and was instantly drowned in a sense of disappointment. It wasn’t so much the fact that I was overweight…but it’s because I felt like I let everyone down. My team mates, who I owe everything to. If it wasn’t for those guys, I wouldn’t be here today. On multiple occasions. For the rogue med evac team…the doctors, the surgeons, the nurses…my PTs, my OTs, my case manager, the Marines. I was literally saying, “Screw you guys. My life is worth more than yours…” by the lack of actions I was taking. All of these people had done everything in their power to give me a second chance at life, and I was being ungrateful and messing it up.”

He started cleaning up his life, and Sheep Dog Impact Assistance came along to challenge him and fellow combat-wounded Marine, Cpl. Sebastian Gallegos, to get off the couch on SDIA’s very first Outdoor Adventure – a Spartan Beast obstacle race. He conquered that challenge, and hasn’t looked back since. Perales credits SDIA for reigniting in him his purpose. On the adventure, he explained, “We were surrounded by fellow Marines and police officers who wanted to uplift us and help us grow through the things we were going through. The camaraderie. The brotherhood. The teamwork to accomplish the mission gave us a sense of belonging again. That day, with those warriors, reignited a flame I once let burn out. That race quickly became the first of many. I soon found myself anywhere from places like Sweden swimming island to island alongside Sebastian, to standing on top of the highest free-standing mountain in the world, Mt. Kilimanjaro. It’s because of guys like [SDIA founder & president] Lance and Sheep Dog that warriors like myself and many others continue to fight…to fight for our purpose…to fight for our why.” [Watch his full speech here.]


Following his inspirational speech, the evening continued with dinner, bidding on silent auction items, and the Gall Excavation ‘Heads or Tails’ game. Bailey & Oliver Law Firm’s Auction Team got the crowd bidding for items including a LASIK procedure from Vold Vision, a full set of Braces from Storms Orthodontics, a trip for two to SDIA’s 2020 Spring Upland Game Bird Hunt at Bethel Ranch, a gun package from Talking Lead & Friends, an SDIA-customized trench knife from BlackGuard Customs, and Pick of the Litter for a Goldendoodle puppy donated by Jayme Lingo. Combat Iron Conversions held the drawing for their SDIA-custom Unimog, and special recognition was also given to Jeff Engleman and Scott Huff for last year’s generous gift of lakefront property which SDIA has plans to turn into a retreat for Sheep Dogs and their families in need of getting off the couch for relaxation and recreation.
For the first time in SDIA’s history, they gave $5,000 donations to two like-minded non-profit organizations – America’s Mighty Warriors, founded by Guest of Honor & Gold Star Mother, Debbie Lee, and Massachusetts Fallen Heroes Foundation, co-founded by SFC Eric Emond, the Springdale high school graduate killed in Afghanistan last November. In addition to the donations, Ms. Lee and Ms. Leslee Weimer, Emond’s mother, both received one-of-a-kind knives forged by Guest of Honor, Cpl. Liam Fuller of BlackGuard Customs, in honor and remembrance of their sons.

Our Heroes Gala would never be the success it is without the support of our incredible sponsors, donors and volunteers. Huge thanks goes out to the following companies, organizations and individuals for their contribution.

SDIA’s mission to engage, assist and empower Sheep Dogs to #GetOffTheCouch and be around others who have faced similar experiences is crucial to their healing – especially for those injured in combat or the line of duty. Often these heroes become depressed, isolated, addicted to pain killers and alcohol, lose their sense of purpose, and contemplate or attempt suicide. By getting them up off the couch and working or adventuring alongside their peers, they are able to speak freely about their situations and can truly relax. They are reminded of who they are and that they still have much to give back to their communities and country. The camaraderie they feel among other Sheep Dogs is irreplaceable, and can be the difference between redefining their purpose in life or choosing to end it.
Sheep Dog Impact Assistance is deeply grateful for the support of their sponsors, members, volunteers, attendees and donors for all the ways they contributed to the success of this year’s Heroes Gala. We look forward to next year’s Heroes Gala on Saturday, April 18, 2020, in which we will also be celebrating our 10th anniversary.
More photos from the 7th Annual Heroes Gala can be seen on our Facebook page albums: Heroes Gala, VIP Reception.
For more information about SDIA and their mission, please visit, call 417-812-6035, or email

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