Auburn University Executive MBA (EMBA) alumni Gordon Sumner and Meg Foreman are both active supporters of Veterans Moving Forward (VMF); a leading source of canine therapy and assistance dogs, provided at no cost to veterans with physical and mental health challenges. Unlike other non-profits that provide service dogs to veterans, a veteran does not have to be combat-wounded to qualify for a VMF service dog.
VMF just celebrated its 5 year anniversary. The founder Karen Jeffries, a retired
Navy officer – contacted Gordon Sumner during the early development stages. ‘Within
5 minutes of the conversation I knew that was what I wanted to do,” said Sumner.
He served as secretary of the board for 4 years and just recently stepped down as
president. He is now continuing to serve as a volunteer. Sumner is a retired colonel
with the U.S. Army, where he served for 27 years. He attended Auburn in 1970, but
left the university and joined the Army. He returned to Auburn and graduated with
his Executive MBA in 2006.
Sumner and Foreman graduated from Auburn University a few years apart but were able to connect on Linked In through an Auburn network. “We kept in touch,” Foreman said, “and shortly after I returned from Afghanistan, Dr. Sumner told me about VMF's annual fundraiser, Cocktails with Canines, which occurs every year around Veterans Day. I attended that November, and met the founder, along with one of the puppy raisers whose dog had just been matched with his veteran. I decided at that point that I needed to find a job after I retired from active duty that would allow me to be involved with this incredible organization.”
Foreman retired in 2015 as a Colonel with the U.S. Army, where she served for 27 years. She graduated from Auburn University with her Executive MBA in 2009. Foreman explained, “As a result of a combination of events that occurred over the next few months, I decide that I wanted to raise a puppy for VMF. Puppy raisers are the heart and soul of VMF: they take the pups at around 8 weeks and are responsible for the day-to-day care and basic training. VMF has two certified trainers who oversee all the training and conduct formal classes and outings several times a week, but the pups live with their raisers until they are matched with their veterans, usually somewhere around 2 years of age. Puppy raisers are all volunteers; some have connections to the military; others do not. Some have raised many dogs (for VMF and for other similar entities); others like me are first-time raisers.”
The dogs must undergo an extensive training process, taking 18-24 months to provide assistance for veterans dealing with PTSD or a physical disability. After a dog is placed in a home, trainers work with the veteran for 3-6 months until he or she is fully comfortable.
“My favorite part is seeing the magic that happens when you see the dog interact with the veteran, said Sumner “It’s just magic what happens to see how these dogs turn their lives around.”
*** Veterans Moving Forward is a 501(c)(3) public charity whose mission is to provide service dogs to veterans with physical and mental health challenges. For more information, visit the www.vetsfwd.org
For more information about the Executive MBA program at Auburn University, visit AuburnEMBA.org