Hingham Working Dog fundraiser a big success; benefits comfort dog Opry and other programs

courtesy photos

February 7, 2023 By Carol Britton Meyer

Sunday’s Hingham Working Dog Foundation-hosted first annual fundraiser and was a big success, raising money for food, medical care, and additional training for the Hingham Police Department’s comfort dog, Opry, and toward programming to educate citizens about the role HWDF plays in the community. In all, more than $3,000 was raised.

“Opry has quickly become the most popular member of the department,” Hingham Police Chief David Jones told the Hingham Anchor. “She even has her own Instagram account!”

The town owns Opry but doesn’t pay her expenses, which means the program depends on adequate funding through donations and fundraising. Another goal is to raise money to pay for a safe and secure vehicle for Opry’s transport, featuring heat sensors for climate control and a caged-in area.

The event was held Feb. 5 at the Untold Brewing taproom & restaurant at the Derby Street Shops and not only supported Opry’s upkeep but also raised awareness about the bigger picture of HWDF providing an opportunity for Hingham residents to have their dogs participate in a wider comfort dog training program.

“This event was a huge success, and the number of people who came out and told personal stories of how Opry and [Opry’s handler, School Resource Officer Thomas Ford] have positively impacted their lives was inspiring,” Jones said.  “It was great to see our community come together to support Officer Ford and his work with Opry.” Live music courtesy of Aldous Collins was enjoyed by everyone who attended.

The support that “this town has shown us to help increase positive and meaningful connections with the community in itself is priceless,” Ford told the Hingham Anchor. “Donations will be put to good use to continue to strengthen this program and our relationship with the town.”

Opry was donated to the HPD by PAWS New England and funded through a grant from the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office. She is used to reduce stress and promote wellness and healing for members of the community.

In addition to her presence in Hingham, Opry will also make appearances at the nationally accredited Plymouth County Children’s Advocacy Center. There, Opry will be made available to comfort child victims of abuse.

“Opry is the first ever comfort dog to serve with Hingham Police, and she is a great addition to the department and the Hingham community,” DA Tim Cruz told the Hingham Anchor in an email after the event, at which he, Jones, and Select Board Chair William Ramsey spoke. “We know all too well the traumatic effect that stress can have on young people. Officer Ford and Opry have worked hard at training, and Opry has developed a comforting presence and commands smiles wherever she goes.”

Other special guests included Hingham Veterans Agent Keith Jermyn and his service dog, Mario; therapy dog, Taco; and Trish Morse from the Cohasset Working Dog Foundation and therapy dogs Oliver and Gracie.

At the event, Jones expressed appreciation for Cruz — “without his generous donation this program never would have been possible” — Ramsey, and for the owners of Untold Brewing and Clandestine Kitchen, Mike Dyer and Courtney Doyle respectively and their staff, for hosting the fundraiser.

“I am grateful for the support of Select Board Chair Ramsey, who has been a constant force in championing our community engagement efforts, and our comfort dog program is no exception,” Jones said.  “DA Cruz has been an ally and supporter from the inception of the program, seeing the vision that Officer Ford had with Opry and taking the initiative to invest in our department and community.  Without his leadership, this program would not have been possible.”

HWDF was pleased to be awarded an additional grant by Cruz during the event to support the HPD comfort dog program.
Jones acknowledged and thanked Ford and Opry for never giving up on making this program the success it has become. “Tom’s perseverance and commitment shown through from the minute he rescued Opry from the shelter in Texas and gave her the life she has today as, without a doubt, the most popular member of our agency.”

HWDF President Mary Ann Blackmur gave a shout-out for the support of the individuals and businesses who donated “the fantastic raffle items and the community and speakers who attended the event. Their support is overwhelming,” she said.

Together, Ford and Opry “have built bridges between the department and so many members of our community, and I am excited to see what the future will bring for both of them,” Jones said.

The police chief is “incredibly proud” of Ford and the work he has done with Opry. “He is a resource to our students and staff at the High School day in and day out. He truly cares for the wellbeing of the students, and you can clearly see his compassion and the connections he has with them every school day,” according to Jones. “Most days, the first thing students see when they arrive for school is Opry greeting them from her custom-made bench at the main entrance.”

Outside of school, Ford assists the town by visiting other establishments and areas such as Downtown Hingham, Derby Street Shops, The Hingham Shipyard, Linden Ponds, The Residence at Penniman Hill, Hingham Town Hall, and other municipal departments, including the Senior Center and many others, spreading comfort and cheer.

Anyone interested in learning more about HWDF is encouraged to send an email to info@hinghamworkingdogfoundation.org.

HWDF is looking forward to hosting more fundraising events in the future. In the meantime, donations may be made by scanning the QR code below.

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