Heathwood Students say “Thank You” to K9 Unit with Donation to Bulletproof Vest Fund

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The dogs in the Richland County Sheriff’s department do amazing work to keep all of us safer. Now the dogs themselves will be safer thanks to a gift from some Heathwood students. After learning about the dogs in their “Heathwood CSI” Winterim class, the students decided to donate money to help purchase bulletproof vests for the dogs.

The Heathwood CSI class, one of the options for Upper School students during their one-week experiential learning Winterim program, introduces students to all the resources, skills, and insights that go into the process of solving a crime. A crime scene investigator from the Sheriff’s Department comes to campus and stages a crime scene—and then teams of students work together to figure out whodunit. Along the way, they work with a variety of law enforcement professionals from the Sheriff’s Department, learning everything from how to process clues in a crime lab to what the fitness requirements for police officers are like—and they are introduced to the K9 unit.

Students in the 2015 CSI Heathwood class were so impressed by the dogs and all that they do for the community that they wanted to find a meaningful way to show their appreciation. Upon learning that one of the dogs had been fatally shot in a drug raid in 2011, the students felt a contribution to the bulletproof vest fund would be the most meaningful gift they could make, but they no longer had the funds in their class budget to make a donation. So the students in the 2016 class agreed to set aside $200 out of their budget.

On April 15, 2016, students from both CSI Heathwood classes presented Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott with their donation.  The funds are much needed, since bulletproof vests for the dogs cost more than the ones for their human counterparts. Richland County’s K9 unit is one of the strongest in the nation, featuring more dogs per capita than many larger metropolitan areas like Los Angeles. The dogs, who are highly trained and very physically fit, do a number of jobs at which canines are more qualified than people, including sniffing out drugs and explosives.

The CSI Heathwood students’ gift also earned Heathwood a spot on the list of sponsors for this year’s Guardians of the Night 5K race, which will take place July 30th at 10:30 p.m. at The Village at Sandhills Mall. Held each year as a fundraiser for the K9 unit, the Guardians of the Night race gives participants the opportunity to run alongside the dogs and their Deputies.

Upper School Spanish Teacher Lori Byrd, who sponsors the CSI Heathwood class along with Resource Officer Sara Parry, says the students’ gift is a testament to the impressive work the K9 unit does. “Seeing the dogs and their handlers exposed us to a different side of the community that we don’t usually see,” Byrd says. “Our kids are accustomed to being involved in the community in a lot of ways through our community service projects. But they were really moved by the story of Fargo, the dog who was killed, and when they saw what these dogs do, and what it takes to protect our community, it touched a different part of their hearts.”

To learn more about the Guardians of the Night 5K, or to register, go to http://www.strictlyrunning.com/images/16GOTN.pdf.

To learn more about Fargo, the K9 who was killed in the line of duty, go to https://www.odmp.org/k9/1494-k9-fargo

To learn more about the Richland County K9 unit, go to http://www.rcsd.net/comm/k9team.htm