COLORADO SPRINGS — The Dogtopia Foundation is a non-profit committed to funding service dog training for military veterans returning home with physical and emotional challenges.

Recent statistics suggest there’s a growing need for these kinds of services. According to Dogtopia, 52% of veterans suffer from PTSD while six in 10 feel depressed, lonely or anxious. In the coming months, a new local Dogtopia Daycare Spa will be opening on Woodmen Road in Colorado Springs, and will be holding a fundraiser to raise $20,000 – the approximate cost of training three service dogs.

The guest of honor at the fundraiser is retired Command Sergeant Major Gretchen Evans. Evans was introduced by Denver Broncos Quarterback Russell Wilson at the ESPYs as this year’s recipient of the Pat Tilman award for service.

Evans commanded 30,000 troops in Afghanistan during her last deployment in 2017, before suffering devastating injuries from an explosion, and also losing her hearing. When she returned to the United States, Evans tried to continue her exercise routines but realized one evening when she was out running that she couldn’t hear an approaching bicycle behind her.

She was hit and thrown into oncoming traffic. It was in the emergency room when she heard the doctor’s words, ‘you can’t do the things you used to do,’ that urged her to seek help. She credits her service dog aura for saving her life.

“I thought if I don’t stick my foot in this closing door, I’m going to lose my life,” Gretchen admitted. “I went home and I started researching online about organizations that did service dogs. And I looked and looked and looked until I got to the America’s Vet Dog website. And their mission statement says, ‘we train service dogs for people with all disabilities.'”

The Dogtopia Foundation event is partnering with American Service dogs for the fundraiser on Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 5 p.m. at the U.S Olympic and Paralympic Museum. Tickets are now available to purchase with all proceeds going to service dog training through the Dogtopia Foundation.

At the event, there will be cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a museum tour and inspiring words from Gretchen Evans as well as live and silent auctions.