NONPROFIT SPOTLIGHT

Sheep Dog Impact Assistance 

Engaging and empowering veterans and first responders
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By Steve Andrews | Photos courtesy of Sheep Dog Impact Assistance

Sergeant Major Lance Nutt can best be described as a “Marine’s Marine.” Not only is he willing and prepared to battle on the front line for his country, but he’s also willing to lay it all on the line back home for his fellow countrymen.

 

After Nutt returned home from an overseas deployment in 2005, all he saw on TV was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which had just wreaked havoc along the Gulf Coast. The Category 5 storm killed more than 1,800 people and left thousands more to deal with the dismal destruction along its path.

 

“Katrina hit and wiped-out entire communities. People the world over were shocked by the scale of devastation and how long it took for help to arrive,” says Nutt. “At the time, as a Marine Gunnery Sergeant, I recruited two others for the relief mission. We received donations of water, blankets, MREs (military meals) and other supplies. Our three-man team drove to Pass Christian, Mississippi, and distributed supplies to the relief headquarters and residents in need.”

 

On the drive back to Arkansas, worn out and dirty, Nutt and his small crew felt extremely fulfilled by their mission to assist those in need. They began to realize the benefits of an organization that could assist members of the military and first responders in crisis.

 

“We discussed continuing these efforts in the future, and the seed of Sheep Dog Impact Assistance began to grow and take shape,” says Nutt, who retired from the Marines in 2018 after a 30-year career, including three active duty tours in Iraq. He established the Sheep Dog Impact Assistance (SDIA) program as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2010.

 

The primary purpose of SDIA is to engage, assist and empower military veterans and first responders who are injured in the line of duty. It also gives those same guardians of society — known as the “Sheep Dogs” — opportunities to continue serving and providing assistance to those in need.

 

“Sheep Dogs are members of the military or first responders, who are willing to risk their lives and run into the fire when everyone else is running out,” says Jayme Lingo, SDIA outreach coordinator. “They are the ones who save the flock, or society, from the wolves.”

 

The nonprofit has since grown to include more than 25 SDIA chapters and teams across the country. Its services revolve around three basic outreaches: Disaster Response Missions, Outdoor Adventures and Warrior PATHH (Progressive Alternative Training for Healing Heroes).

 

Outdoor Adventures include activities that help encourage those who are struggling with depression to get active again via fellowship with other Sheep Dogs. The adventures include hunting and fishing trips, obstacle courses, hiking and much more.

 

Warrior PATHH is a sort of non-clinical treatment program for those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, helping lead them toward growth and away from potential breakdowns or thoughts of suicide. “Basically, it allows you to take those things that you survived and use them to better yourself,” says Lingo.

 

SDIA has partnered with the Boulder Crest Foundation, part of the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network, to bring a Warrior PATHH facility to Northwest Arkansas. This will create an even bigger difference in the lives of veterans and first responders in need, by taking them through an 18-month program that will lead them on a journey to living their best life.

 

The nonprofit is also opening a lakefront retreat this fall, which is a one-acre donated lot on Beaver Lake in Rogers that is being developed into an Outdoor Adventure retreat for Sheep Dogs in need and their families. This retreat will provide families with a well-appointed wheelchair-accessible lodge where they can relax, recuperate and spend much-needed quality time together, which in turn will foster healing and restoration for the entire family unit.

 

This year, SDIA was dubbed a Carry The Load (CTL) Nonprofit Partner for the fifth consecutive year. As a part of CTL’s nationwide Continuum of Care program, SDIA will help raise awareness and funds during the 2021 Memorial May campaign, which is essential to helping the nation’s military, veterans, first responders and their families.

 

“Our chapters and teams across the U.S. have been actively involved in this campaign each year by participating in the national relays, rallies and Memorial March held in Dallas on Memorial Day weekend,” says Nutt. “We hope to have all our members, volunteers and supporters continue their participation this year as they are able with whatever COVID-19 precautions are in place at that time.”

 

A 10th anniversary celebration for SDIA was scheduled for last fall, but was postponed due to the pandemic. It has tentatively been rescheduled for Oct. 9.

 

To learn more about SDIA, visit www.sheepdogia.org. Online registration is available for memberships and volunteers. You can reach the SDIA home office by calling (417) 812-6035 or emailing info@SheepDogIA.org.

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