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Dedication. Expertise. Passion.


I was born and raised here in Iowa.  I have 2 sisters and 1 brother.  My entire childhood I had an enormous love for all animals, I just knew I would be doing something with animals when I grew up.  To my surprise, I choose a totally different career as an adult.  I received my AA degree from Hamilton Business college.  I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Business/ Accounting from University of Phoenix, in 2004.  In 2010, I met my wonderful husband, John.  We have 6 children all together.  I have a personal connection and a long line to the military. My father is a Navy Vet, and my uncles and brother are Army Veterans.  Our three oldest children, Jordan, Steven, and Nicholas have been or are currently serving in the United States military.  My love of God, animals, and the long list of family veterans as well as friends’ children that have been in the Military or passed from PTSD has led us to start this journey and this foundation.  Knowing the need of so many military and rescue heroes has brought us here.  March of 2021, I enrolled at ABC, Animal Behavior College and will become a ABCDT, certified dog trainer, in earlier 2022.  I enjoy everything outdoors, especially in the warmth of the sun.  My most recent outstanding accomplishment was climbing to the 14,434-foot summit of Mount Elbert in Colorado.  It was absolutely amazing!  Turns out I am doing something with animals when I grow up. 

Laura Ward, ABCDT



I was born in Lorain, Ohio in 1973, I spent most of my childhood there with my mother, 2 older sisters and 2 younger brothers.  I moved to Iowa around the age of 16 and attended what was then GBF or Greenfield, Bridgewater, Fontanelle high school.  As a high school dropout, I then studied and received my G.E.D..  My work experiences are vast as I have done everything from managing a restaurant, to becoming a certified welder, a maintenance director, and a satellite communication technician/salesman.  I enjoy everything outdoors, hunting, fishing camping just to name a few, but my passion is coaching, it doesn't matter what sport " soccer is my favorite "

My most proud accomplishments include being a great father figure to my boys, a proud, loving and supporting husband to my wife and a devoted Christian disciple.

John Ward

Co-Founder/Program Director

Our Board of Directors

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Eric Mahoney



I was born and raised in Iowa. I graduated from Walnut (Little Antique City), although when I was growing up it was a farming community.  I was married for 10 years in a very tumultuous marriage, divorced for 10 years, and then met the love of my life Randall.  I joined him in his ministry of reaching out to un-saved youth and it progressed in so many different directions, lastly, having a Home of Hope for women in distress.  Together with our blended family we have 6 daughters and 2 sons, whom are all grown and living this life for the most part successfully. 20 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.

We have had 5 fur babies in our time together.  Gypsy, Dipsy-doodle, Harley Anna, Sam, and our current member of the household Lucy. Throughout our years we have witnessed the joy pets can bring to people at different times in their lives.  They bring companionship, comfort from loneliness, and help when they have learned to be service pets.

Janet Lawson

Vice - President


Laura Gebauer is the leader of Business Intelligence & Analytics at BerganKDV in Des Moines, IA.  She leads a team of Financial Analysts who specialize in providing companies and organizations with business insights and metrics.   Prior to joining BerganKDV, Laura spent her career in Accounting, Finance and Treasury for larger corporations in the Des Moines area.   Laura has always had a deep love for animals since childhood.  Her family has owned and operated a Pet Supplies and Grooming company for the last 16 years.   As a hobby, Laura enjoys making custom birthday cakes and cupcakes for dogs.  Laura has a full house with a German Shepherd named Hermes, a cat named Bowtie, two children named Ellison and Everett and her husband Cody.

Laura Gebauer



I grew up in Jefferson County Missouri fifty miles south of the St. Louis Arch. My folks had fifty acres of hills and valleys with lots of forest and rocks. I always had pet dog of many-mixed breeds and sometimes 2 or 3.  My Mom joined the Marine Corp and my dad was in the Army during WW II. They married after the war.  I went to Jefferson Junior College in Hillsboro, MO, where I received my Associated of Arts degree 1972- 74. I continued to get my Bachelor of Music Education from Central Missouri State University 1974-76. Finally, received my Master of Science in Education Emphasis Music in 1978.  I worked 10 years in Missouri and 22 Years with the Des Moines Public School.  I married in 1985 to John Watkins and I were married 33 years before he passed away in 2017. I have one daughter who lives in Norwalk.  I am presently a member of chapter KM of P.E.O, Alpha Delta Kappa in Des Moines, and the Greater Des Moines Community Band.  I have been retired for 3 years and look forward to serving on the board of the “Canine Miracles for Heroes”. 

Priscilla Watkins



I am married to Dr. Craig Vernon.  We moved to Altoona 9 years ago from West Bend.  I lived in and graduated from Emmetsburg High School and Iowa Lakes Community College.  I have spent 30 years as a registered dental assistant in Spencer, Emmetsburg and Fort Dodge.  I have 10 years with banking / personal banker experience.  Currently, I am employed as a business Office Administrator for Edward Jones.  My hobbies include travel, golf, pickleball, pets, music, NHRA drag racing and riding my Harley.

Karla Vernon

Board Member

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Steph Mahoney

Board Member

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