ATLANTA -- Piper Hill arrived at SunTrust Park on Thursday morning with the expectation she was simply going to be interviewed about Healing4Heroes, the non-profit organization she started to provide service dogs to military members who need assistance while recovering from physical or mental ailments.Hill received a welcome surprise when
ATLANTA -- Piper Hill arrived at SunTrust Park on Thursday morning with the expectation she was simply going to be interviewed about Healing4Heroes, the non-profit organization she started to provide service dogs to military members who need assistance while recovering from physical or mental ailments.
Hill received a welcome surprise when upon her arrival she was greeted by Braves CEO and chairman Terry McGuirk, pitcher Mike Foltynewicz and other members of the organization, who were present to recognize her as a Community Hero.
"It's a very special moment," Foltynewicz said. "It's always awesome to come out and celebrate these Community Heroes, especially this case with the service animals. I'm a big dog person, so I definitely jumped on this opportunity. It's just great to come out and support this cause."
While staging Community Heroes Week, the Braves and FOX Sports South have celebrated the efforts of individuals who have made a difference in their community. Hill was selected based on the contributions she has made to enrich the lives of both the dogs and soldiers impacted by her charity.
"I had some of the best soldiers and they always took care of me," Hill said. "This was my chance to give back to those who did so much for me and our nation. They deserve it. There's no reason any of them should feel like there is no help out there."
Hill joined the Army Reserves in 1990, shortly after graduating from Louisiana State University. Shortly before being deployed to Iraq as an active duty officer nearly 20 years ago, she was placed on the Temporarily Disabled Retirement list due to a neurological illness.
As Hill battled PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), she learned of the value of service dogs and opted to train her own canine to fill this role for her. That eventually led her to begin her charity.
Hill selects rescue dogs from high-kill animal shelters and puts them through an extensive training process that costs slightly more than $5,000 per animal. Once the dogs have been trained, they are donated to veterans in need of a service animal.
"It's incredible just watching [the veterans] transform," Hill said. "When they come in, they are broken and battered just like the dogs, and then within four or five days, they are standing taller and have more confidence. They've just become better people in who they are now after war or injuries."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.