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Operation Freedom Paws Founder is Finalist for CNN Hero of the Year


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apspdgMary Cortani is a former Army dog trainer who started Operation Freedoms Paws, a non-profit that helps veterans train their own service dogs in Northern California.

Dog lovers and advocates for disabled US soldiers are voting and sharing in an effort to help Mary and her organization win a high profile award that will shine a spotlight on Operation Freedom Paws and its good works.


Since 2010, Mary has personally helped many soldiers to find relief from the crippling effects of PTSD. Operation Freedom Paws gives back to soldiers who have been traumatized in service to their country, while finding homes and a sense of purpose for the therapeutic service dogs, who come from shelters and rescues.

We posted the CNN profile on the dog lover and community advocate and her work in June when she was nominated for CNN Hero of the Year. On September 20, 2012, CNN announced the Top 10 heroes in their CNN Heroes program that celebrates ordinary people making extraordinary contributions to improve the lives of others. Mary is one of 10 finalists for CNN Hero of the Year 2012.

In 2010, a former Marine approached Mary seeking assistance in acquiring a service dog to help him overcome anxiety disorders caused by combat hyper-vigilance. The multi-year waiting lists for trained dogs from existing organizations were just one more source of frustration for that returning vet.

Mary knew that she could leverage her extensive dog-training experience to train that vet to train his own service dog. She also realized there are thousands of dogs waiting for loving homes and that many of them have the right temperament for service work. Those factors combined to form a strategy that would dramatically reduce the waiting time.

The approach turned out to do so much more: It gave the vet a sense of mission and purpose, and as the training proceeded, it provided a sense of accomplishment and renewed confidence as well. Thus was born the Operation Freedom Paws (OFP) program, and for Mary, the alignment of her skillset, her capacity as a gifted leader and her life purpose.

Voting commenced on September 20 and runs through November 28. You can vote up to 10 times a day per email address. Daily voting is more convenient if you bookmark the page. Vote HERE.

Mary’s Hero profile page at CNN is HERE.