About The Gift of Sunshine, Inc.
As T.S. Eliot said, "What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from."
My passion for training service dogs goes back more than 16 years. Prior to founding The Gift of Sunshine, I worked as Master Trainer for Independence Dogs in Chadds Ford, PA where I was responsible for the training of more than 55 service dogs and their mobility impaired partners.
Nelson, a merle Great Dane, was one of the pups that I fostered and trained during that time. Nelson was diagnosed with Wobbler's Disease, a cervical spine disease, when he was a year old. He could not complete his service dog training, so I chose to adopt him. Nelson was certified as a therapy dog and worked with sexually abused teenagers until he passed away shortly after his second birthday. The kids reached out to him when they rejected other people; they made him gifts and seemed to respond to him because he had special needs. His nickname was "Sunshine" and he became my inspiration to establish The Gift of Sunshine, Inc. in November 2002.
With the support of a small group of extremely dedicated volunteers, TGOS continued to train dogs to assist people with disabilities until late 2009 when I approached the TGOS Board of Directors about restructuring the organization in order to maximize our impact and be much more cost effective. During this difficult economy, we realize just how important it is to utilize every donation dollar to its fullest extent. I have witnessed, many times, the difference a service dog has made in someone's life and understand the time, money and commitment it takes to graduate a successful partnership.
I am excited about our new mission and invite you to browse our website to learn about the services we offer. Our Hope Chest and Gandalf Fund will enable us to assist people with a wide range of physical and emotional conditions.
Please check out the volunteer opportunities that are available and the variety of ways that you can support us in our efforts. With your help we will continue to improve the lives of disabled men, women, children and the dogs that they love - one life, one dog at a time.
Julie E. Van Vliet, President & Founder