Trace Adkins, center, holds foster puppy Stanley with volunteer puppy raisers, Ken, left, and Mary Blain. Courtesy Paws With A Cause
Three area nonprofits will be in the spotlight on Wednesday, Nov. 14, as part of musician Trace Adkins’ television show “Great American Heroes.”
Paws With A Cause’s Mike Sapp, Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center’s Lori Slager and GreenCare for Troops’ volunteer Andrew Stachowiak all will be featured during the episode for their tremendous work and commitment to helping others.
“Great American Heroes” recognizes people doing extraordinary things in their communities.
“They had a whole process,” explained Deb Davis, national marketing manager for Paws With A Cause, about how Sapp and his organization were chosen. “We had to be vetted first … interview questions, a deep dive of the agency and of Mike as a person. We had to send biographical information, photos, organization history, client testimony, client photos, our application process. Basically, they wanted to make sure we were real and to make sure that we were large enough to support something like being featured on the show as well. They knew they wanted to do a dog-related agency and they did their homework.
“We were humbled, as was Mike Sapp. Mike was actually the hero, even though he never ever takes any credit. It’s always about the clients.”
Sapp and his late wife Antoinette Joni “Candye” Sapp established Pause With A Cause in 1979 after successfully helping to train a service dog for a deaf friend. At the time, the pair was not expecting the venture to become so large.
“Seeing someone in need, knowing you can fill that need and using your resources to do it, and that is what propelled them on a daily basis,” Davis said, explaining how the organization evolved.
To date, Paws has placed 2,400 assistance dogs throughout the country during its 33-year history.
“They are spread throughout the country, but the vast majority of them are here in Michigan,” Davis said. “We have to have them close to keep an eye on them, and they come to weekly obedience classes in either our office or our satellite locations in Lansing and near Troy. A good 90 percent of them that are in the field are in Michigan.”
There are 165 foster puppies in the field at this time. The puppies live with their foster parents full time for 14 to 16 months.
In addition to interviews with Sapp and his staff, Adkins’ visit included a complete depiction of the work the organization does, and viewers will get to see all of the stages of the dog training process during the segment.
“It was absolutely so much fun to work with him and the crew. Our organization had a fantastic day,” Davis said. “He actually met a client that is going to be paired with a service dog, and, coincidentally, that client was there at Paws that day to meet his service dog for the first time so we incorporated that into the production schedule.”
Adkins also visited the Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center, a creative writing program for Grand Rapids Public Schools students that focuses on improving writing and reading skills through creative writing activities.
Slager, who also owns The Sparrows coffee shop, started the CYC in 2009 while serving as a volunteer at the Cook Arts Center. CYC has quickly expanded into a full-fledged operation and now also works with students at the Baxter Community Center and English language learners at Congress Elementary. In addition, multi-subject tutoring has been added.
“I’m really excited to have the program recognized,” Slager said. “I think it’s exciting what’s happening and how we are growing, but I’m a little bit nervous about being the focus.”
Slager isn’t sure what made the final cut, but said that many of the kids and volunteers were also interviewed for the episode, and that Adkins spent a lot of time observing and asking questions during his visit. The segment was filmed at the Baxter Community Center.
She doesn’t know how CYC was chosen, but agreed with Davis that it was a long process, which involved a lot of work and back and forth before the show made its final selection.
One of the highlights for Slager was meeting Sapp and Stachowiak.
“I talked with both of those guys and meeting them was really inspiring,” she said. “They were really wonderful people.”
CYC has 20 volunteers and is serving approximately 75 students annually. It is run completely by volunteers, but is hoping in the next year to become a fully funded nonprofit.
Slager and the CYC board also are currently working on securing a space for the program, and if all goes well they will soon move into the former Literary Life bookstore location on Wealthy Street SE.
“Every time somebody gets excited about what we are doing or wants to get involved, it’s reassuring that we are doing the right thing,” Slager said. “That helps a lot too, getting more people interested.”
Adkins also visits with former Stachowiak, a former U.S. Marine, during the episode. Stachowiak volunteers his time with the EverGreen program GreenCare for Troops. The program connects lawn care and landscape professionals with families of deployed military men and women. The volunteers provide lawn upkeep services for the military member’s family.
Pause with a Cause is holding a special, free viewing party at Celebration Cinema North on Nov. 14 beginning at 7:30 p.m.
The episode will air multiple times between Nov. 14 and Nov. 19 on the Great American Country channel: Nov. 14 at 8 p.m., Nov. 15 at midnight, Nov. 16 at 1 p.m., Nov. 18 at 8 p.m., and Nov. 19 at midnight.