The mission of the SD Gunner Fund has evolved over the years to meet the needs of those suffering not only with PTSD, but children with autism. It all started as a way to help Sgt. Hamilton Kinard break free from some tough times with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “I could see he was drifting into a dark place. Hamilton was losing his friends. The shades were drawn. He was perfectly fine being isolated all by himself,” says his wife Britnee, the founder of the SD Gunner Fund. “At some point into this, I said…you know what buddy, you are now the face of this organization and you have to get up and talk to people,” added Britnee.
It worked! Sgt. Kinard answered that call to action to promote the non profit, which at that time was only providing service dogs to veterans like him. Then in 2016, the Kinards expanded that mission to include children with special needs, when their oldest son was diagnosed with autism. “He’s so amazing. He’s so gifted in so many ways,” says Sgt. Kinard of his son. “It made him really step up, because Hamilton wanted our son to realize that just because you have something, there’s no reason to hide behind it. So, it took the organization and our son, to really bring my husband out of his shell, ” says Britnee.
In 2005, Sgt. Kinard suffered a traumatic brain injury after his unit took a direct hit from an IED while in Iraq. He also lives with the challenges of PTSD, which Hamilton says actually helps him better understand his son. Britnee agrees. “With PTSD, there is lashing out with frustration. With autism there’s lashing out because of lack of communication skills and sensory challenges. In crowds, it’s overwhelming with all those people in your comfort zone,” says Britnee.
The SD Gunner Fund is named after Gunner who is a service dog to Sgt. Kinard and their son. “He’s my guy. With him around, I can relax better. I can let my guard down a little bit with him knowing he’s looking out for me and my family, ” explains Sgt. Kinard.
Since it’s inception in 2014, Britnee estimates that their non profit has touched the lives of about 10,000 people. They have placed and trained 65 service animals, and trained and placed 5 animals for pediatric therapy programs. They currently have 20 dogs in training to be service animals, some of them are actually living with them in their Richmond Hill home along with Gunner.
Everyone in their non profit is a volunteer. No one takes a salary, so that 100% of the money raised goes directly to the programs they support. If you’d like to learn more about their mission and how to get involved just check out their website.