FOX LAKE – Vicky O’Donnell might not ride, but she can join the War Dogs Charity Riders anytime.
O’Donnell recently hosted a liquidation sale in Fox Lake, selling hundreds of items left over from a former business. The sale comes at the end of a tough couple of years for O’Donnell, who suffers from a disability because of a deformity of the spine.
She had numerous items – holiday decorations, boxes, gift bags, greeting cards and more, as well as other gift items – in storage. She had stocked the items to give to customers for birthdays and holidays.
“I think it’s very important to give back, especially in these times,” said O’Donnell, who recently moved from Fox Lake to Wauconda.
When she heard about War Dogs, she knew she wanted to help. Instead of simply selling her items, she decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to the nonprofit group.
The War Dogs raise money for efforts to pair veterans and first responders with service dogs through K9s for Veterans (K9sforveteransnfp.org). Dogs are rescued from kill shelters and trained to become companions for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
K9s for Veterans provides free food and medical care for the life of the service dog. Along with benefiting veterans, first providers and the rescued dogs, the efforts educate the public about the plight of those with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I thought this is a great organization,” O’Donnell said. “They’re not only helping the veterans, they’re saving animals. They’re literally saving animals from being killed.”
The process to pair a dog with a veteran or first responder is about $15,000.
Having to cancel a recent Run for Freedom ride because of weather, the War Dogs Charity Riders were grateful for the donation.
Steven Pinsler founded the group about five years ago, with roughly 30 riders showing up to the group’s first ride.
A ride in June drew more than 400 riders, group president Jessica Sheehan of Grayslake said, and another ride is planned for September. The group hosts at least two rides a year.
“We’re excited to have Vicky be part of us,” Sheehan said. “I think what she’s doing is fabulous. We’re going to keep forging on.”
O’Donnell wouldn’t be the only member of the club who doesn’t ride, Sheehan said. They’ve welcomed others who simply want to help.
The club has more than 200 official members and 10 board members, Sheehan said.
Why do Sheehan and others take part?
“I appreciate the freedom I have,” she said.
For O’Donnell, giving back is a way of life. She’s also been involved with Soles4Souls; new and gently worn shoes are donated to adults and children in need in more than 127 countries.
O’Donnell is particularly drawn in by efforts to help veterans.
“Our times right now, the military, the veterans, they need to be a top priority because of the unknown right now of what’s going on in our country,” she said. “They need to know we have their backs. I think our servicemen deserve so much more. I don’t think they could ever get paid back enough for what they do and what their families go through.
“I think that this is the best way I can do it based on my abilities.”
Along with gathering donations, she spread the word about War Dogs and K9s for Veterans to those who stopped by the sale.
“I’m very proud, and I can’t wait to meet some of the servicemen who have benefited,” she said. “I just think it’s the right thing to do.”
The sale is continuing from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 145 Sayton Road, Fox Lake.