On Feb. 4, local and national nonprofit organization K9s For Warriors announced on its Facebook page that its beloved founder, Shari Duval, had passed away after a long battle with cancer.
Duval was an outstanding member of the Ponte Vedra Beach community, creating the K9s For Warriors organization more than 10 years ago in an attempt to make a difference for American veterans.
Before she opened the organization, she spent her time volunteering at veterans’ charities in Jacksonville. This inspired her to create a way to provide necessary assistance to struggling veterans.
Her son served as a bomb dog handler for two tours in Iraq. Once he returned, it was clear that Duval’s son suffered from the same post-traumatic stress disorder she had seen in so many other veterans.
Duval spent two years researching canine assistance for PTSD and other military-related traumas, and began her nonprofit in 2011 as a solution to both her son’s disorder and the disorders of other American warriors.
“She had grit and tenacity, and she never gave up,” said Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s For Warriors. “I have never seen anyone like her.”
Diamond said Duval was involved with every aspect of the organization, from fundraisers to dog training to personally helping veterans in need. She was affectionately dubbed “mom” by many of the warriors, because she spent so much time ensuring the stability and healing of any and all warriors who entered her facility.
“She pioneered how to love on warriors,” Diamond said. “She would do anything for them.”
Recently, the North Florida campus was renamed in her honor as The Shari Duval K9s For Warriors National Headquarters. Despite being ill while attending the ceremony, Diamond said Duval still gave a rousing 10-minute speech about the importance of the organization’s work.
After helping hundreds of veterans, rescuing more than 1,000 dogs and becoming the nation’s largest provider of service animals for disabled veterans, Duval has left behind a legacy that will last for generations.
Her philosophy of never giving up remains true in the many stories warriors tell about her life, and the impact her work has had on hundreds of people.
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