SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) — A local man and his ten service dogs are attracting hundreds of people this weekend at the Flowertown Festival in Summerville. He's collecting money to help disabled veterans get service dogs -- but the way he's collecting money is a bit different.
Richard Kaplan started his nonprofit called Canine Angels six years ago. He trained all of the dogs, and now nearly 60 veterans have been given free service dogs because of his efforts.
But before the dogs are partnered with a disabled veteran, Kaplan trains the dogs to grab the money people donate.
"They may be collecting money today, but tonight they may be getting a bottle of medicine, getting a prosthetic leg, fetching a cane, delivering a message to somebody in the house, picking up items for somebody in a wheelchair, getting help in an emergency, so this is an extension to their ability to learn a task and do what's necessary," Kaplan said.
It takes him anywhere from 6 to 18 months to train them but it varies with every dog and veteran.
Yvonne Ouellette served in the military and was at the Flowertown Festival on Saturday to see the dogs.
"As a veteran myself and my husband and my whole family has been in the military, I think it's wonderful that we are doing something to help our disabled vets," Ouellette said.
Kaplan says the program is very dear to his heart even though he's not a veteran.
"I'm not a veteran. I came from a military family but I could not serve when I was a young man because of an accident. I may be alive today because it was the height of Vietnam, because of that and I always knew when I had the time, health, and financial independence, I was going to spend the rest of my life paying forward and paying back so that's what this is for me," Kaplan said.
Kaplan says in a three-day weekend the dogs can raise as much as $5,000 in donations. All that money goes towards caring for the animals and making sure they are trained to serve the veterans.