Freedom from “dis” Ability Gala and 20th Anniversary Celebration

By | Charity, From the Staff, Service Dog Stories

4 Paws for Ability is excited to share that 2018 marks 20 years of freedom from disability through the placement of task trained service dogs with children and veterans.

Founder, Karen Shirk, envisioned a place where every person with a disability was viewed as equal, valuable, and important following her own struggles to obtain a service dog. Eventually, Karen obtained Ben, who she would train with the assistance of Jeremy Dulebohn to be her service dog, performing various mobility and retrieval tasks. After a few years of falling asleep with Ben at her feet, wondering how many others had been turned away from traditional service dog agencies, Karen signed the papers in October 1998 to make 4 Paws for Ability an official 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. After assisting a handful of people through contracted trainers, Karen saw the need was as real as she experienced, and full circle reconnected with Jeremy who became and today remains the Director of Training at 4 Paws for Ability.

Early in the development of 4 Paws for Ability, the organization came to work with children after being unable to find another organization willing to do so. The first known organization to assist children by placing task-trained Autism Assistance dogs, 4 Paws has gone on to expand their programs for children to include Seizure Assistance, Facilitated Guide, Mobility Assistance, Diabetic Alert, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders/Drug Exposure Assistance, Hearing Assistance, and Multipurpose Assistance Service Dogs to ensure that children everywhere have the option of obtaining a service dog to enhance their and their family’s quality of life while navigating the world with a disability. 4 Paws added a small veterans program to their services offered following 9-11, believing that if every legitimate service dog agency committed a portion of their resources to support veterans of the United States, no veteran would go without the support they need to reorient to society following the loss of ability after war.

2018 is a year of hope, excitement and celebration for 4 Paws for Ability. 4 Paws will be placing their first Facility Assistance Dog with a local school district to assist children with Autism in the classroom. 4 Paws is also excited to announce the development of a program for adults with Alzheimer’s. People with Alzheimer’s present similar challenges to their caregivers that many of our parents of kids with disorders like Autism, chromosome disorders, intellectual disabilities experience. 4 Paws has determined that years of experience with the three-unit team (adult handler, client, and service dog) will bring benefit to families experiencing the hardships of Alzheimer’s and give them the opportunity to add a meaningful tool to their toolkit, expanding their ability to remain in home caregivers for those they love.

4 Paws will be celebrating the accomplishments of their first 20 years throughout 2018. The Freedom from “dis” Ability Gala and 20th Anniversary Celebration will take place at the Freedom Center in Cincinnati, OH on October 20, 2018. 4 Paws is honored to stand on the shoulders of those who came before and link arms with those who stand beside to support freedom, accessibility, and equality for all regardless of race, gender, income level, and most certainly regardless of disability.

IRS Publishes End-of-Year Giving Tips

By | Charity, Fundraising
4 Paws for Ability relies on the donation and support of donors to successfully complete their mission every year.  These donations com in all shapes, sizes, and forms!  We wanted to share some helpful information from the IRS on End-of-Year Gifts to help those considering making a donation to charity before the New Year!
IRS 2016 End-of-Year Gift Tips
The IRS offers tips on how to execute and document various 2016 charitable gifts. Gifts to qualified public charities, like 4 Paws, are deductible. The information included here was published by the IRS on December 2, 2016.
1. Monetary Gifts – If reducing your taxable estate is an important estate planning goal for you, making lifetime charitable donations can help achieve that goal and benefit 4 Paws. In addition, by making donations during your lifetime, rather than at death, you’ll receive income tax deductions. To take a 2016 charitable donation deduction, the gift must be made by December 31. According to the IRS, a donation generally is “made” at the time of its “unconditional delivery.” The delivery date depends in part on what you donate and how you donate it. Here are a few examples for common donations:
Check – The date you mail it.
Credit card – The date you make the charge.
Electronic Funds Transfer – The date the financial institution executes the transfer.
Stock certificate – The date you mail the properly endorsed stock certificate to the charity.
You must have a bank record or written statement from 4 Paws to qualify for itemizing your deduction. You will need a written receipt if your gift is over $250.
2. IRS Charitable Rollovers – If you are over 70½, you must take annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your IRAs (except Roth IRAs) and, generally, from your defined contribution plans (such as 401(k) plans). You also could be required to take RMDs if you inherited a retirement plan (including Roth IRAs).  If you don’t comply — which usually requires taking the RMD by December 31 — you can owe a penalty equal to 50% of the amount you should have withdrawn but didn’t.
To make an IRA rollover gift, contact your IRA custodian. The IRA custodian will make a transfer directly to 4 Paws. This transaction will not be reported in your income and therefore is not an itemized deduction. The transfer may fulfill your required minimum distribution (RMD).

Thank you Cheap Hotels!

By | Charity, Fundraising

We were recently contacted by members of the Cheap Hotels staff regarding their charity program.   Each month Cheap Hotels selects an organization that will receive 1% of booking fees and we are grateful that they selected us!  They made a $500 donation, which will benefit our building fund.

We always advocate that we continue support for our supporters, so the next time you’re in need of a hotel, consider booking at

Thanks for your support Cheap Hotels!

Bow winner announced in first raffle!

By | Charity, Fundraising, Service Dog Stories

e212e281-a951-48e5-8479-ee9cdada452fThe Hudkins family, owners of Athens Archery and 4 Paws For Ability alums, contacted us at the beginning of the year with an idea to raise money for our cause! Their selfless act of generosity led to a monthly bow raffle, with proceeds benefiting the 4 Paws building fund. The first month was a great success, and they are now gearing up for the second raffle!

Each month, a bow will be made courtesy of Athens Archery and Jason and Amanda Hudkins (Ashlynn & Alvy Service Dog team December 2013). Winners will be able to choose between the 4 Paws edition or the New Fall Leaves Camo. 

Each bow is worth $800 (retail). Each raffle ticket (it will be a virtual ticket) is $15, which can be purchased here. Buying your raffle ticket on this website is simple, fast, and secure.

The first winner is: Brian Dillow! 

The next monthly contest has begun already, and the next winner will be announced on March 31. 

4 Paws would like to congratulate Brian on his win, and thank the Hudkins for their kindness and support!

Ashlynn and Alvy

Ashlynn and Alvy

Thanksgiving comes early at 4 Paws

By | Charity, Fundraising, Honors/Awards, Miscellaneous

DSC_0010If you work at 4 Paws For Ability, it’s a definite possibility you feel as though Thanksgiving has come early this year.

Why, you might ask? The answer is simple.

We have a support network, or more like an extended 4 Paws family, that is generous beyond compare.

As most of you know, we hosted a gala on October 19th to celebrate our 15th year of service. Our goal was to spend an evening enjoying the company of as many 4 Paws friends as possible, and to raise money towards our building fund. In addition to the food and festivities, the gala also featured a raffle, silent auctions and the unveiling of our revised building plans by HiFive Development. The evening was also paired with a “One Day of Giving” Campaign, where contributions were matched by one of our donors.

The day ended with over $24,000 being collected, and with all of us at 4 Paws giving thanks for our many blessings. Every penny of that generosity gets us closer to our goal of upgrading and expanding our current facility; a necessary goal when attempting to keep pace with demand.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, we have the best fans and friends in the world. Thanks to everyone who donated time and money to make our 15th Anniversary celebration a success, and for helping get us closer to yet another dream coming true.



Below are some pictures of the evening. 


10 Render 7 Render 2 Floor Plan DSC_0032 DSC_0031 DSC_0024 DSC_0027 DSC_0020 DSC_0013 DSC_0010 DSC_0016 DSC_0017 DSC_0008 DSC_0011 DSC_0005 DSC_0002 DSC_0001 DSC_0003

4 Paws for Ability is once again participating as a CFC (Combined Federal Campaign) charity!

By | Charity, Fundraising, Honors/Awards, Miscellaneous

cfcDear 4 Paws families:

4 Paws for Ability is once again participating as a CFC (Combined Federal Campaign) charity!

For those of you unfamiliar with this program, it was enacted into law by John F. Kennedy as the method of soliciting federal and military employees to allocate a certain dollar amount from their paychecks to give to charities that are thoroughly reviewed and approved by the government. The campaign officially kicks off in September and runs through December 15th.

If you are a federal employee or in the military, please designate 4 Paws. Also, please forward this information to your friends and family who work for the federal government or are in the military to please designate 4 Paws in the CFC campaign this year. Our CFC # is 59894.

This is a nice funding source for us…this year we will be receiving payments totaling $65,000.

Let’s see if we can increase it next year!

Again, our CFC # is 59894, and we are listed under “Animal Charities of America.”

Please spread the word! Thank you for your support.



P.S. 4 Paws is not a United Way affiliated agency; however, we receive donations if people write us in so if your employer participates in United Way, please write us in on your pledge card form and encourage others to do the same. Thank you!

4 Paws For Ability is one of 250 Finalists for Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good Program!

By | Charity, Fundraising, Honors/Awards, Miscellaneous

7_100 Cars For Good Logo4 Paws For Ability is one of 250 Finalists for Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good Program!

4 Paws For Ability is proud to announce we’ve been selected as a finalist in Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good Program. Now we need your support! Mark your calendars and vote for 4 Paws For Ability at on October 28th.

From birth to placement and beyond, our service dogs travel a ton of miles. Whether running out to the field to practice life-saving tracking skills or to venture out as an ambassador for educational forums, our dogs are constantly on the go. If fortunate enough to win, the new Toyota vehicle would be a valuable asset for ensuring safe and reliable transportation!

Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good program will award 100 vehicles over the course of 50 days to 100 deserving nonprofit organizations based on votes from the public. Winning organizations will use the Toyota vehicles to help expand their reach and missions within their communities.

Please support 4 Paws For Ability on October 28th with your vote!

Voting will take place at 



Come meet Little Miss Ohio, Emma Moore, as she fundraises for 4 Paws!

By | Charity, Fundraising, Miscellaneous

IMG_2683Local girl Emma Moore, 9, is a beautiful young lady inside and out, which we’re sure is a big reason why she was named Little Miss Ohio this year!

Emma is a charity-minded girl and spends a lot of her time giving back to the community, including being a volunteer for 4 Paws. Recently Emma expressed an interest in holding a fundraiser for our organization, and the brainstorming began. As most of you know, The Sephora Store at The Greene in Dayton chose us as their charity partner this year and has been selling a cosmetic colletion during the last few months to support 4 Paws. It was quickly decided that the store would be a perfect backdrop for Emma’s generosity, as we celebrate “the beauty of giving”.

Emma is asking people to bring a bag of Pup-Peroni or Beggin’ Strips to the Sephora store on Saturday, September 7 from 1 – 3 PM for 4 Paws to use in training our service dogs. Emma will be available to sign autographs or have pictures taken with those who bring these dog treats that day. We’re told there may also be a guest appearance or two that day by one of our very own service dogs in training, so be sure to stop by!

If you’re in the Dayton area that Saturday, we encourage you to bring a bag of treats and show your support for not only 4 Paws, but also for a young lady who is dedicated to the service of others. 

Thanks again Emma, for your generosity!

Event address:

Sephora on The Greene

4421 Glengarry Dr #126  

Beavercreek, OH 45440

(937) 431-9300

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Karen and 4 Paws to be honored on “Walk of Fame” at San Antonio park

By | Charity, Honors/Awards, Miscellaneous

DSC_2135It is because of the kindness of our families and associates that we are able to spread awareness of our work. Such exposure often leads to our ability to grow and help even more people. Recently we were informed that one of our families went out of there way to get the 4 Paws name in lights in a very special way – by nominating Karen Shirk and our organization for a unique and precious award.

Located in San Antonio, Texas, Morgan’s Wonderland is the world’s only special needs theme park. The park’s vision is simply to establish a special place where smiles and laughter make wonderful memories with family members, caregivers and friends. To build a place where the common element of play creates an atmosphere of inclusion for those with and without disabilities, encouraging and allowing everyone to gain a greater understanding of one another.

Gordon Hartman

Gordan Hartman

It was a labor of love created by philanthropist Gordon Hartmen, inspired by observing his daughter Morgan, a child with special needs, struggling to stay included with her friends while playing at a hotel pool. This observation evolved into a safe, colorful, 25-acre park that serves as a haven not only for those with special needs but also for their families, friends, caregivers and the public at large.  Morgan’s Wonderland is a place where “kids” of all ages and abilities can have fun, and from the very beginning,  has admitted anyone with a physical or cognitive challenge free of charge.

Because Morgan’s Wonderland operates as a non-profit, it relies on the generosity of supporters to operate, just as we do. They host an annual gala to recognize the kindness of their donors, where they also take the time to honor 5 individuals who also make a difference in the special needs community. The public is encouraged to nominate candidates, and this year 4 Paws friends, the Pivonka family, nominated our Founder, Karen Shirk. Out of over 80 nominees, Karen was selected! Below is a portion of the email announcing her award:

Good Afternoon Karen,

It is my distinct privilege to advise you of your selection as an honoree for the Morgan’s Wonderland Walk of Fame!

Each year, a panel of judges selects five outstanding individuals from across the nation who have clearly distinguished themselves in helping those with special needs.  As one of our 2013 selectees, you will be honored at a luncheon on Friday, Sept. 20, in San Antonio and again at the “Free to Soar Gala” later that evening at Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first ultra-accessible theme park designed with special-needs individuals in mind but built for everyone’s enjoyment.  Please see the enclosure for more details.

In addition to recognition at the luncheon and gala, your name will be imbedded in a round, translucent “stepping stone” on our ¾-mile-long Walk and Roll Path that encircles our park’s scenic eight-acre lake.

The award was such a touching surprise! Karen and the rest of us at 4 Paws, would like to thank the Pivonka family as well as Morgan’s Wonderland for this incredible honor. We certainly cherish the sentiment, but also the opportunity to meet so many other passionate supporters of the special needs community.

At this point, Karen plans to make arrangements to attend the gala, so stay tuned for updates!


Walk of Fame stones light up at night!


What Karen’s stone will look like

Morgans Wonderland

Having fun in the music area


Sensory Village

Morgans Wonderland

A water park for everyone


The ever-popular carousel


CCN – driving to make a difference with ‘Doggie Days of Summer’

By | Charity, Fundraising, Miscellaneous

Suzee Louis and SDIT, Keebler

When Suzee Louis of Xenia, Ohio first learned of 4 Paws for Ability, she became an instant advocate for our mission and set forth to find a way to lend a helping hand. Her efforts led to a joyful morning of golf and giving, as the ladies of The Country Club of the North (CCN) came together in an event that raised not just money, but awareness of our work.

On Thursday, August 8th, members and their guests teed off at the stunning CCN course for some fun and friendly competition, in an event titled ‘The Doggie Days of Summer – CCN Guest Day’. The ladies played for prizes and all-important bragging rights, but they also played with a purpose that morning – to support our families and service dogs. The day ended with lunch at the club house, where participants not only enjoyed good food and refreshments, but also had the opportunity to meet service-dog-in-training, Keebler!


Keebler shaking paws.

And as many of you can imagine, Keebler was more than happy to play ambassador and shake paws with the ladies. We’re pretty sure he was on cloud nine as he strutted his stuff and was showered with attention!

4 Paws Development Director, Kelly Camm, was on hand that day to educate the golfers on our history, processes and overall mission and helped in answering some great questions. The ladies off CCN were so welcoming, curious and supportive!

At the end of the day, the participants donated a large dog crate, several dog toys and treats, and $485! We at 4 Paws consider that better than a hole in one any day!

Thanks again to Suzee, all the ladies who participated and to The Country Club of the North for your generosity and support! It was a beautiful day and you really did make a difference!

Left to right - Timi Gump, Centerville; Kim Ceccarelli, Beavercreek;  Donna Stafford, Beavercreek; Nancy King, Beavercreek Country Club of the North Beavercreek Kelly Camm & Keebler answering questions Keebler enjoying the ambassador role! He is loving this! Keebler, meeting and greeting Our dogs will LOVE these donations! What a huge crowd! Keebler wanted to meet EVERYONE Keebler made a special friend! Adorable cupcakes! (or shall we say, 'pup'cakes?) Keebler saying hello