NONPROFIT: Dogs Helping Heroes

Dogs Helping Heroes matches trained rescue dogs with veterans partners to help them achieve independence and freedom.

YEAR: 2017

PROGRAM: Ignite Louisville

Dogs Helping Heroes (DHH) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping restore lost freedom and peace of mind to wounded veterans, first responders, and Gold Star Families by gifting specially trained and certified assistance dogs. Our inspiration is to improve the daily lives of those we can help. Every stage of our process — from obtaining our dogs to placement with a hero — involves a vast network of support.


DHH was founded in 2013, and after a few years found themselves at a crossroads many non-profits face, needing an operational path for the future. With an all-volunteer board, a quickly growing number of hero teams to match with service dogs, and uncertainty with ADI certification and outreach. “If it were not for this program through Leadership Louisville, I am unsure where the organization would have turned for this type of collaboration and guidance. Time and area expertise were the major roadblocks before being paired with a CAT team. All mindsets and motivations were in the right place, but cohesively ironing out a strategic plan when no one had gone through that process before, while navigating items related to dog training and the connection with our heroes, was overwhelming. We needed help, and knew to ask for it.”

“We felt nervous, excited, and hopeful applying for a team. It is always a bit intimidating when someone ‘looks inside your house,’ so to speak. You have to be a bit vulnerable to share everything your organization is doing, open it up for honest critique, and be willing to grow and change. Also, time was a huge worry – would we have the time available to commit to working with a team? The answers to all of these were yes, and it was so worth it!”

Fall 2017 Ignite Louisville team who worked with Dogs Helping Heroes

Fall 2017 Ignite Louisville team who worked with Dogs Helping Heroes was comprised of Cassandra Webb, Lindsay Wehr, Lauren Colberg, Keith Joy, Lara Thompson, Alan Oca, Jeff Greer, and Angie Stokes



DHH hoped the team would be able to help them gain Assistance Dog International Certification to make funding available for veterans to have their animal expenses covered through VA benefits. Despite a long delay in the availability of gaining this certification, the team worked to secure funds to meet the animal expenses in other ways. Grants and contributions from TEGNA, Brown-Forman, BAE Systems and others raised over $10,000 to help cover these costs. In addition, the team:

  • Created a strategic plan for the next three years
  • Generated media contacts and coverage
  • Submitted a Gold Star Rating non-profit application
  • Created a social media strategy
  • Began a marketing plan
  • Provided new outreach contacts to connect DHH with key community members



“We found a balance of respecting everyone’s schedules, identifying zones and point people, milestones, and goals to ensure things moved forward and not in circles as they often can. The CAT team was not too close to the subject, so they could listen to our problems and opportunities objectively, determine the greatest need, and help us build a path to get there. At DHH we had all of the ingredients – but the CAT team helped elevate those ingredients (as the good cooking shows would say), and offer us the expertise to put together a crucial strategic plan.”

“Our organization likely wouldn’t be who we are today without our Ignite team. The board, hero teams, and outreach would still be moving, but the team helped us be our best version of ourselves, and even introduced us to consultants and now current board members to continue the growth and work.”

Interested in your own team?

Learn more about how your organization can benefit and apply: