CIGNA Teams with NEADS/Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans; Raising Funds to Train Puppies to be Assistance Dogs
PHILADELPHIA. - In celebration of the recent graduation day for the newest group of NEADS/Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans graduates, CIGNA is continuing its support of NEADS through a $25,000 donation made by the company’s disability insurance business. In addition, through a new employee fundraising effort, CIGNA will work to raise more money in support of NEADS’ Name-A-Puppy program. NEADS is a non-profit organization that trains service dogs for deaf people and people with disabilities, including wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Through a campaign titled “Someone NEADS Us” CIGNA employees will also vie, in a company-wide drawing, for the honor of naming a puppy that will be trained as an assistance dog. CIGNA employees are working to raise at least $5,000, enough to sponsor ‘naming a puppy’ for a minimum of five puppies. CIGNA Foundation will also make an additional $5,000 contribution to the Name-A-Puppy program.
“Since I got AJ in February through the NEADS Canines for Combat Veterans Program, my life has changed dramatically and AJ is one of the best things to ever happen to me,” said Chris Maddeford, an Army veteran who was injured in Afghanistan. “I’ve slept better than I have in years, and I feel more comfortable in everything that I do. AJ also helps the guys at the VA where I am a Certified Peer Specialist. I run groups and one-to-one sessions, and AJ is there all the time. It’s amazing what he can do. He picks up any dropped articles that I cannot reach due to my back injuries, yet that’s only a part of the story. It’s life-changing what he does for me and the other guys in my group. I want to thank CIGNA and so many others for their generosity toward veterans and those with a disability who may get the chance to realize a little bit better life, even with their injuries.”
Each year in conjunction with its title sponsorship of the CIGNA Falmouth Road Race, CIGNA partners with a community organization whose mission closely mirrors its own. CIGNA has been an ongoing financial supporter of NEADS and will host the organization at the CIGNA Falmouth Road Race, August 9th in Falmouth, Mass., where puppies in training will be on site and thousands of visitors can learn more about NEADS’ programs. The CIGNA donations are a start; in total it costs about $20,000 to fully raise, train and care for each puppy.
“CIGNA and NEADS share a common goal to assist individuals with disabilities lead more independent lives at work and at home,” said Dr. Robert Anfield, chief medical officer for CIGNA’s disability business. “We are privileged to play a role in supporting the important work of this organization and to help make it possible for more people to benefit from the help of an assistance dog.”
NEADS, with its headquarters in Princeton, Mass., is the oldest continuing hearing dog program in the country and the only program of its kind in New England. NEADS has trained more than 1,300 assistance dog teams from all 50 states since its inception in 1976.
Assistance dogs can help physically disabled individuals in a number of ways. For example, they can pull wheelchairs, open and close doors and turn light switches off and on in addition to performing many other tasks needed by a person with a disability to help them gain a measure of independence.
The majority of hearing dogs are rescued from animal shelters and most service dogs are donated as puppies by breeders. Each dog goes through a sixteen-month training cycle to prepare them for a human partner. Once a trained dog is matched with its new owner, the newly matched pair lives in NEADS’ fully accessible residence for two weeks while learning to work and live together. During this time and under careful supervision and guidance from NEADS trainers, the disabled recipients learn the skills to handle their dogs to maximum potential. In addition, other NEADS’ trained dogs are placed with special educators and therapists who work with disabled children and those with autism.
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