On Saturday, April 22, we held our 5th Annual Charity Ball at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Spa in Rogers. More than 425 people attended and helped us raise over $40,000, which will be used to sponsor Sheep Dogs injured in combat or the line of duty to go on Outdoor Adventures; this October, 20 Sheep Dogs will be sponsored on an epic trip to Washington DC. The Charity Ball’s Host Sponsor was Bennett Packaging, along with Presenting Sponsors Broadway Contracting, JUNK Brands, Walmart, White Lynx Creative, and Zantac.

Guests enjoyed a delicious dinner with musical entertainment provided by local artist, Cameron Johnson Music, and participated in the silent auction & live auction (sponsored by Bailey & Oliver‘s Live Auction Team), as well as the Heads or Tails game (sponsored by Gall Excavation).

Sheep Dog of the Year Awards were presented to William Tremaine, Jr, of Ward, Arkansas (EMS), Chief Dennis Ledbetter of Farmington, Arkansas (Fire & Rescue), Officer Amley “Popsey” Floyd of Tulsa, Oklahoma (Law Enforcement), and 1SG Merrill White of Northwest Arkansas (Military).

Volunteer of the Year went to 11-year-old Ava Pippin and her parents, Kerry & Tiffany, and Kacey Wiltz received the Meat Eater award. Other awards presented include: Sponsor of the Year – Walmart; Community Partner of the Year – Rock Crawlers 4×4 Club NWA; Cpl Nick Perales Commitment Award – JUNK Brands; Cpl. Sebastian Gallegos Outstanding Service Award – Bethel Ranch; and Founders Award – FLEOA.

Local hero, USMC Cpl Aaron Mankin (Ret.), entertained guests with his humorous and inspiring story. He was wounded in 2005 by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) near the Syrian border; six Marines died and 11 were injured, including Mankin, who suffered severe lung damage and burns which disfigured his hands, arms and face. Since his injury, he has been an outspoken force in driving much-needed change in services for veterans. During his speech, he told guests he doesn’t think of SDIA as a charity. “[SDIA] is an organization that gives Sheep Dogs and civilians the opportunity to serve those who serve,” Mankin said.

SgtMaj Lance Nutt, SDIA’s founder and president, agreed. “Cpl Mankin hit the nail on the head – SDIA is all about giving Sheep Dogs the opportunity to continue serving, whether it be through disaster response missions, outdoor adventures or our holiday programs.”

SDIA hosts Outdoor Adventures throughout the year for fellow Sheep Dogs to provide them with the camaraderie and peer support that may be missing after a shift or tour of duty ends – two vital elements that promote a positive state of mind and perspective. For sponsored Sheep Dogs (those injured in combat or the line of duty), these adventures are much more than a getaway. While the outings are fun and exciting, participation is critical to their healing, because doing so presents them with new challenges that test their rehabilitation progress, restores independence and self-confidence, and gets them off the couch and reengaged in living life to the fullest.

Cpl Mankin first participated in an SDIA Outdoor Adventure last year when a group of 60+ spent five days amid the beauty and wonder of Yosemite National Park. It was there that he realized that the best cure for the hardships faced by injured Sheep Dogs is camaraderie. He said, “Relaxing and engaging with fellow Sheep Dogs turned things around for me. The healing is so organic that you don’t even realize it’s happening.”

For more information about SDIA and their Outdoor Adventures program, visit www.SheepDogIA.org or email info@sheepdogia.org.

More photos of the 5th Annual Charity Ball can be found in our Facebook Album.