The Santa Clara Elks Lodge had been transformed to an island getaway on Aug. 8. There was a roasted pig, tropical entertainment and carved fruit that said Welcome to Luau and one emblazoned with the Sean’s K9s logo. Last Saturday evening was a special day for Cheryl Walsh and the supporters of her non-profit, the Sean M. Walsh K-9 Memorial Foundation.
After Walsh lost her son in Afghanistan in November of 2011, Walsh made it her passion to give back to police departments, as it was her son’s dream to become an K9 officer once his military service had ended.
Within six months of forming the foundation, enough money had been raised to fund the first grant to the Santa Clara Police Department. Since that time, Sean’s K9s has donated police dogs throughout the state and the first annual luau gave four of those dogs and their handlers the opportunity to attend, including the first K9, Argo from SCPD, second K9 Faro from San Rafael PD, tenth K9 Raider from the Santa Clara County Sherriff’s Department and eleventh K9 Rudiger from the Nevada City Police Department.
In addition to celebrating all the organization has been able to do, while raising funds for future K9s, luau guests enjoyed entertainment that brought the islands to Santa Clara.
From hula dancers and music, to a fire dancer who closed the evening, everything was themed around the tropics. Even the event master of ceremonies, Jonathan Shiroma, used some of his time to explain Hawaiian traditions and terms for the evening’s event, which was catered by Mariani’s Restaurant.
Because it was our first year, it was difficult for us to know what to expect, but we considered it a success, said Walsh, adding that the event couldn’t have been so successful without all of the board members and volunteers who chipped in to set up and tear down.
We are 100 percent volunteer and have no administrative costs, said Walsh. We rely heavily on contributions of everyday people and small businesses from all over the country for support. We combine their donations to provide the grants necessary for the departments that reach out to us. There’s a quote I like to use, ‘alone we are a drop, together we are an ocean’ to reinforce that there is no donation too small. We already have two departments that have approached us with a potential need and I just received an email for a third. Our growth is exponential and every year we double the requests from the year before. If we can raise the funds, we will provide at least eight departments with K9s this year, doubling last year’s donation.
She continued, “We have already made the commitment to Santa Clara for the City’s next K9. That would mean that all four of their K9s have come from donations from our organization.” Next year’s luau event is already scheduled for Aug. 13, 2016, and the organization is expecting two to three times the attendance. Visit www.seansk9s.com for more information.
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