The students in Tom Acri’s second period social studies class at West Shore Middle School may be young, but they’ve been reading up on some serious matters, like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its effects on many veterans.
The 13- and 14-year-old students have talked about the book “Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him,” by the late Luis Montalván, who returned from war in Iraq physically and emotionally damaged, and found solace in a trained golden retriever named Tuesday.
On May 8, the students will hold a dinner from 6 to 8 p.m. at their school to raise money for Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities, a nonprofit group that provides trained service dogs to U.S. veterans through its Project Heal program.
Acri’s classes at West Shore have been holding dinners to benefit veterans for almost 20 years. This year’s class hopes to bring in between $500 and $1,000 to help the people who risked their lives for the country.
“I didn’t realize how many veterans need assistance,” said student Elizabeth Ryan. “Some can’t even get out of bed because of PTSD.”
Many of the students have dogs themselves and believe in the healing power and comfort a canine can provide.
Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities is a nonprofit group based in Winsted, Ct., that aims to empower veterans with combat-related disabilities, including amputees, those with post traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injuries, by providing trained service dogs to increase independence, according to the group’s website.
“The service dogs learn numerous specialty commands to aid veterans, including reminding them to take medications, warn of approaching strangers, and creating a barrier in crowded public places,” the website states. “Additionally, these specially educated dogs provide mobility and retrieval assistance.”
The West Shore students all agreed this was the nonprofit group they wanted to support.
The students have been planning the dinner, collecting raffle prizes — some big ones, including a Woodruff Family YMCA membership — selling tickets and more since around October.
Tickets are $15, and $10 for veterans, seniors and children under age 10, and will include a pasta dinner prepared by Lasse’s Restaurant in Milford, plus beverages and dessert.
Acri, explaining that the students are not getting graded for hosting the dinner, said they have really come together as a team for no other reason than to help others.
“This is about giving back, giving back to the people who served the country and saying ‘thank you,” Acri said.
His students agreed.
“It’s a really good opportunity for us because of teamwork,” said student Hanna Keating. “All the time we put in though, I think we will be sad when it’s over.”
On May 8, the students will be decorating, helping to sell tickets at the door, and mingling with guests. They plan to honor veterans in attendance, and music that evening will include a patriotic medley that is a “tradition” at the dinner, according to student Matt Galligan.
For tickets, email Acri at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 203-783-3553. The school is located at 70 Kay Avenue in Milford.