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A veteran's best friend

It takes two years for a dog to complete the Retrieving Freedom program and become a vital part of its new owner's life. Retrieving Freedom in Waverly breeds and trains service dogs to meet the needs of veterans. submitted photo
It takes two years for a dog to complete the Retrieving Freedom program and become a vital part of its new owner's life. Retrieving Freedom in Waverly breeds and trains service dogs to meet the needs of veterans. submitted photo

The Iowa chapter of the Farm Bureau Agents Association is always looking for a good cause. The live and silent auctions are a popular part of the group’s annual kickoff and awards banquet held each February in Des Moines.

This year they hit the trifecta. “Veterans, kids and animals,” says Dee Boeding, president of the Iowa group. “How could we go wrong?”

They made Retrieving Freedom Inc. their cause — with impressive results. This year’s donation topped $30,000.

“Our agents like to give back to our communities that support us so generously,” says Boeding. “This is our way of doing that.”

Retrieving Freedom breeds and trains service dogs to meet the needs of veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder and injuries sustained during their service, children with autism, and individuals living with diabetes. The group operates from two locations in Senatobia, Mississippi, and Waverly, Iowa, and works with Assistance Dogs International to provide animals and training that meet the highest quality standards.

It takes two years of training for a dog to complete the program and take its place as companion and aid for those who need its services.

It also takes money.

“RFI’s policy is to not turn anyone way because of financial need,” says Boeding. “That’s where we come in. Our goal was to raise enough to provide six dogs for people who could not afford their own.”

Support for the fundraiser soon spread beyond the agent’s association. “People came out of the woodwork and jumped on board,” says Boeding. Donations came in from the Farm Bureau Financial Services home office in West Des Moines and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

"Our agents like to give back to our communities that support us so generously. This is our way of doing that."
Dee Boeding, Farm Bureau agent in New Hampton

Nick Gerhart, chief administrative officer for FBL Financial Group, offered more than dollars. When Gerhart’s daughter Corinne was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, they looked for ways to keep her blood sugar in line. They found Blue, a service dog trained to sense dangerous blood sugar levels.

“When I heard about the agents’ charity auction, we wanted to help,” says Gerhart. He, Corinne and Blue made a personal appearance at the event, telling their story.

Blue did not come to the Gerharts through RFI, but the need and the outcome are the same. “It’s a great way to help different people with different ailments,” says Gerhart. “This is a cause that means a lot to a lot of people.”

On June 9, at Retrieving Freedom’s annual graduation ceremony, the Farm Bureau Agent’s Association presented RFI with a check for $30,000.

“It means six people who have a need can live a more normal life,” says Boeding. “What we do doesn’t even begin to measure up to what our veterans have done for us, but we can do this. They protect our freedoms, and we’re here to protect our clients and our communities. In some small way, we can relate. In this small way, we can give something back.”

To find more information on Retrieving Freedom Inc., or to make a donation, go to www.retrievingfreedom.org.

Queck-Matzie is a freelance writer from Greenfield.