Each month, we highlight a Winmo employee who is creating a change for good in their community. These stories of service call attention to the individual efforts of our employees and how service has inspired them. McKenna Hight creates valuable content for our clients as a staff writer, providing actionable insights to help them win more business. However, outside of Winmo, McKenna is a co-founder and board member of the Freedom K9 Project.
This service dog organization trains dogs to help victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence overcome the struggles of PTSD. Read more to learn how Freedom K9 is raising awareness for PTSD and works with both the survivors and the dogs to create a team that leads to healing:
Erynn LaFlamme: What is the mission of the Freedom K9 Project?
McKenna Hight: We provide freedom and improved quality of life for survivors of sexual slavery and domestic violence. Through service dogs trained to the highest caliber, the Freedom K9 Project addresses the trauma of these experiences and strives to raise awareness of PTSD in communities, especially those which are inflicted through violence against women.
EL: How did you get involved with this nonprofit?
MH: I’m a co-founder of The Freedom K9 Project. The other co-founder, Lydia, discovered in college that she was really talented when it came to training dogs. With both of us being passionate about women’s issues and mental health, we realized we could really make a difference by training service dogs to help as many survivors as possible. There are no other services in the US that offer service dogs to overcome PTSD for free, unless for war veterans.
EL: What is your specific role within the organization?
MH: Since the organization is based in Indianapolis, I do everything I can to contribute from afar. I do a lot of behind-the-scenes work including writing, organizing fundraisers, and was a large part of the creation of the site. We now have a team of five contributing to the growth of The Freedom K9 Project.
EL: How can people in the community get involved in volunteering?
MH: When you raise money as an individual or organization, you can sponsor a puppy and join in the effort to provide service dogs without any cost to the survivor. With this, you will get personalized updates on how training is going with your specific dog. There are also opportunities to volunteer locally in the Indianapolis area, specifically when it comes to helping with dogs and events. The K9 Freedom Project is open to any help or partnerships, so if you’re interested read more here.
EL: Why do you support this nonprofit?
MH: I just think it’s so cool how service dogs can detect PTSD and assist in healing. Dogs can do amazing things like wake people up from nightmares, stop panic attacks when they’re happening, and so much more. The main purpose of our training is to teach dogs to pull people out of PTSD symptoms instead of having people learn to live with them. The goal is to heal their struggles and help people overcome the trauma they’ve experienced.
EL: Tell us about an impactful time in your time working with the Freedom K9 Project.
MH: This past October, I finally got the chance to go to Indianapolis and meet one of the dogs. This trip had been several years coming, but it was so amazing! I also got to meet my Freedom K9 co-workers in person and we put some thought around specific events we want to plan to attend as an organization. In the past, some of the things we’ve gotten involved with include festivals, pride parades, and really anything local.
EL: What are you most looking forward to in the coming year for the Freedom K9 Project?
MH: The dogs take about a year to train, so this time next year we’ll be able to give two dogs away for free, which is so exciting, especially since it’s the first round. Read more here about the dogs currently in training!
EL: What advice do you have for those looking to get involved in nonprofit work?
MH: I think the best advice I have is simply to stick with it. It can be really hard, especially at first. It takes a lot of determination to be involved in any nonprofit organization, but it’s worth it.
EL: How does Winmo support you in your volunteer efforts?
MH: Winmo’s volunteer time-off policy helps me to keep the importance of volunteering as a priority. It’s really awesome that we have so many company-wide events and opportunities to give back to the community. To be able to have a positive impact in the community is such an amazing opportunity for change. Especially in Atlanta, this program could make such a big difference.