Ypsilanti man and his service dog Storm awarded President's Volunteer Service Award
Ron Wiedbusch | Contributor
Now, Wiedbusch, the Ypsilanti Public Schools safe schools coordinator, and Storm have been awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award: Gold Level for their efforts.
Wiedbusch, a contributor for AnnArbor.com who writes many posts about his and Storm’s work, said he and his service dog are a “rare commodity” because of their incredible teamwork, which has allowed them to work more than 2,100 hours volunteering since 2009.
“We like to use it as a catalyst to get other people involved in caring about other people instead of staying in and wondering what you can do,” Wiedbusch said.
The President’s Volunteer Service Award is awarded to Americans who inspire others to be involved in volunteer work. The Gold Level is attainable only by adults who have spent more than 500 hours in a 12-month period.
Storm is a sort of gentle giant — a 135-pound white German shepherd that has the ability to support the weight of Wiedbusch, who has a spinal cord disability stemming from a car accident, or help him if he falls, but is gentle enough to lie next to and comfort crying babies who have been abused.
Courtesy of Ypsilanti Public Schools
Storm and Wiedbusch work with a long list of agencies and groups within the community, ranging from the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to programs for abused children and local school districts, including YPS.
Wiedbusch said one of the most touching aspects of their work is meeting with veterans who have just returned from combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said Storm might be the first dog the soldiers have seen since coming back from combat and their reactions to the big white dog are always emotional.
“When they hug him and pet him, it can bring tears to anybody’s eyes,” he said. “The only dogs that they may see (overseas) are the ones they see in not positive settings.”
It’s already been a busy year for Storm and Wiedbusch.
During March, known as Reading Month, the team met with about 2,200 students in a five-week period to help promote reading instead of playing video games or other activities. The two have also done many seminars, promoting fire safety, Internet safety, how to approach dogs and strangers, and helping students interested in becoming veterinarians learn how to work with dogs.
Among the places Wiedbusch and Storm visit on a regular basis are local hospitals, often working with children, seniors and amputees.
He said Storm’s laidback and loving nature helps put many of those people at ease.
“Because of Storm’s training and demeanor, he melts down a lot of obstacles,” Wiedbusch said.