Founded in 2017, Sierra Delta's primary goal is to establish a network that effectively links military veterans with suitable dog therapy tailored to their specific needs and lifestyle. BJ Ganem, CEO and founder of Sierra Delta, has built the nonprofit organization around a love for dogs and service to others, with the organization returning to Nantucket this summer for the seventh year for the fundraiser Pledges for Pups.
As a veteran himself, Ganem emphasized the importance of including veterans in all parts of the service dog process.
“Essentially what we're trying to do is empower veterans, go save a dog out of the shelter, and then use that dog in a healthy way to live an epic life,” he told the Current. EPIC stands for empowerment, purpose, innovation, and community, all pillars that Sierra Delta focuses on to provide veterans with the resources to enhance their own lives.
Within Sierra Delta, there are three main programs available to veterans. Through the “Life Buddy” program, Sierra Delta provides education and hands-on training for veterans and their dogs in a way that best suits them, whether for emotional support, medical service, puppy classes, and more. Ganem explained that including veterans in the dog training process is a type of preventive medicine and a way to build a community around teamwork.
“For us at Sierra Delta, that's when we think the work really starts when the veteran and a dog are paired. Now we need to provide curriculum, we need to provide targets for them to hit,” he said.
However, Sierra Delta doesn’t focus on service dogs alone. The “Life Force” program is the heart and soul of what Sierra Delta strives to do: uniting veterans and civilian supporters in community service.
“That is where we help focus these men and women on all this skill set that they learned in the military and through their experience serving in the military,” Ganem said.
The skills that veterans have are returned to their local communities as Sierra Delta helps create projects like dog walks, golf outings, and social media campaigns. The third and newest branch of Sierra Delta is called “Life Blood,” which allows organizations, products, or e-commerce companies to partner with the nonprofit, spreading community outreach.
While Sierra Delta focuses on helping veterans, anyone who joins has access to most of what the nonprofit has to offer. By creating an online community for veterans and supporters alike, Sierra Delta allows all progress to be shared through videos, essentially creating a platform where members can track their headway or see how their donations are directly supporting others.
Sierra Delta began on the island as part of Holidays for Heroes but took off after Ganem gathered support from local businesses and companies like Blue Buffalo dog food. Since its start, Pledges for Pups has been Sierra Delta’s annual cocktail benefit, this year featuring famous auctioneer Pat Tully. The event will be held at the Westmoor Club this Sunday, July 30th from 5 to 7 p.m. With complimentary cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, veterans’ inspiring stories, a paddle raise for concert tickets, beautiful veteran-made art, and more, Ganem hopes that this year’s event will draw more supporters and veterans to Sierra Delta. While there is no ticket price to attend, donations are encouraged and greatly appreciated to help Sierra Delta continue supporting veterans in finding their Life Buddies. Donations can be made here.