This year, Puppies and Patriots hosted their third annual 5K and Dog Walk event at Clemson University.
Puppies and Patriots is a nonprofit business that hosts an annual event on Memorial Day weekend on the Clemson campus utilizing the Snow Family Outdoor Fitness and Wellness Complex. The business was created by a high school student, Casey Frock, who guides its growth while now attending college. Casey’s goal is to raise proceeds that go directly to Service Dogs for Veterans (SD4V). All profits from the event allow the organization to rescue an animal from a shelter and pair it with a veteran in need. SD4V then provides free training that results in a successful partnership that enriches the life of both the veteran and service animal.
The event is open to everyone, including dogs who receive their own prize for completing the walk. The 5K race has awards for overall and age group winners but every participant receives a custom T-shirt and medal. Veterans and their service dogs are in attendance as special guests of honor as well. To date, Casey’s event has generated over $15,000 in funds to SD4V.
If a participant is unable to make it in person, they can join a virtual race option. All virtual race participants get a medal and shirt shipped to them. Virtual participants are able to share photos that will show up on social media. Fostering community engagement is the focus for Clemson University and drives their involvement in hosting the event.
Kelly Bardusk, the director of External Relations at Clemson University Campus Recreation, shared the Puppies and Patriots collaboration was founded at Clemson. “There are some really awesome integrations here with well-being, dog therapy, nature, military and veteran engagement, in addition to relations with local animal shelters and charities,” said Bardusk. “Clemson is also a military school and veteran engagement is always encouraged.”
Bardusk added one of the exciting aspects of the collaboration is the potential to scale. “Our executive director has a great vision for Campus Recreation and integrating well-being into the community,” she said. “We have executed three years of this event and there’s a variety of collaborators, which is pretty neat.”
Those collaborations include businesses that sponsor Puppies and Patriots. The event has drawn larger numbers each year benefitting the local economy. Initiatives like Pups and Pats has the Clemson area focused on hosting events that draw tourism over the summer months. “Specifically, Memorial Day weekend was chosen,” said Bardusk. “Puppies and Patriots is the foundational event around that goal.”
Overall, Clemson is excited about the opportunities that collaborations such as Puppies and Patriots bring to the campus community – especially with the addition of outdoor amenities such as the Snow Family Outdoor Fitness and Wellness Complex, and the Andy Quattlebaum Outdoor Education Center.
Bardusk shared future potential ideas utilizing the outdoor spaces include a dog park and dog therapy. “It’s a beautiful setting for therapy type events, activities and initiatives,” she said. “Watching a 15 year old high school student launch and drive Puppies and Patriots validates our goal to engage our academic partners in active learning projects that provide students opportunities to develop and execute ideas such as these: launching an entrepreneurial concept, managing facility operations, programming, marketing/sponsorship development and finance, just to name a few – there’s just a lot of opportunity.”
Photos courtesy of Puppies and Patriots.