the torch Winter 2015, Issue 4 - Page 12

FEATURE Canine Companions for ® Independence at Baylor Scott & White Health – Kinkeade Center Opens A series of events in November marked the opening of Canine Companions for Independence® at Baylor Scott & White Health – Kinkeade Campus, the first assistance dog training center campus in the nation connected to a health care system. The campus will provide highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support cost-free to individuals with physical and developmental disabilities who qualify through the application process. “We have a long history of innovation and collaboration, and we are proud to add this moment to that history,” said Joel T. Allison, CEO of Baylor Scott & White Health. “This is another example of how we’re working to take care of the total patient.” The events kicked off with a private preview for donors to thank those who have helped Baylor Health Care System Foundation raise nearly $7 million in support of this initiative, including a $2 million pledge from The Hal and Diane Brierley Foundation and a $2 million grant from The Rees-Jones Foundation. The following day, the Kinkeade Campus held its first graduation ceremony. This celebration marks the end of an assistance dog’s professional training and the beginning of a partnership between a human in need and a canine that will provide endless service and companionship. The four teams of graduates included San Antonio native and U.S. Army Captain Michael Caspers and his new service dog, Vincent. To make the weekend even more special, he was honored during the halftime show of the Dallas Cowboys Veterans Day game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex. Vincent joined him on the field to share in the moment. Michael lost his lower right leg to an insurgent’s bomb in Afghanistan in 2011. After he spent more than 20 months in recovery, the Army offered to send him off to civilian life with his new bride. However, Michael volunteered to go back to Afghanistan, this time with the 2nd Ranger Battalion from Joint Base LewisMcChord in Washington. He said his desire to serve after the amputation was to honor two of his platoon’s soldiers seriously injured the day he lost his leg. Michael said deploying with the Rangers felt good, especially since he was able to complete the mission. “It provided closure for me,” he said. Michael, a new father, is excited to bring his new companion home to Fort Carson in Colorado to integrate into both his home life and Army family. He hopes that Vincent will not only give him more independence and assistance with day-to-day tasks, but more importantly take that burden off of his wife so she can care for their 4-month-old son, Marshall. For more information on Canine Companions for Independence at Baylor Scott & White – Kinkeade Campus, contact Sarah Burdi at 214.820.4721 or Sarah.Burdi@BaylorHealth.edu.