Arika Hammond, 14, of Cherokee, Iowa, an eighth-grader at Cherokee Middle School, promotes awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) suffered by military veterans and helps raise money to purchase and train PTSD service dogs as a youth board member and ambassador for the Puppy Jake Foundation (PJF). For a project at her school, students were each given $5 to use to make someone’s life better. Arika chose to donate her money to PJF in memory of a veteran friend who had committed suicide after struggling with PTSD. Afterward, Arika met with the foundation’s CEO and was asked to join the organization’s board.
Since then, Arika has traveled around Northwest Iowa giving speeches about PJF. In addition, she has helped raise money for the foundation by bathing dogs at a local dog grooming salon, hosting a bake sale, and collecting donations at a charity golf tournament, running a concession stand at a youth volleyball tournament, and staffing a PJF booth at the Iowa State Fair. “Each day, 22 veterans commit suicide,” said Arika. “I feel that because of my involvement with Puppy Jake Foundation and what they do for veterans, someday that number will decrease.”