By Libby Hopkins

They say dogs are man’s best friend. They offer companionship and unconditional love to their humans. Some dogs work very hard for their humans by taking care of them and being their guide dogs. “Paws for Patriots” is a program offered by Southeastern Guide Dogs of Palmetto.

Established in 1982, Southeastern Guide Dogs’ mission is to create and nurture a partnership between a visually impaired individual and a guide dog, facilitating life’s journey with mobility, independence and dignity. The program consists of three service areas: guide dogs, veteran assistance dogs and facility therapy dogs. All of the programs at Southeastern Guide Dogs exist thanks to the generous support of donors and volunteers.

Sam Closkey is a member of the Old Town Chapter of Harley Owners Group (OTC HOG) of Brandon and his group has been involved with “Paws for Patriots” for the past seven years. This year, it will be hosting its Fifth annual “Paws for Patriots Golf Tournament” at the River Hills Country Club in Valrico on Monday, October 8. This year’s theme is “Help Us Help a Soldier.” Closkey is the tournament’s chairman. “We thought it would be a good thing to support a local charity that supported soldiers,” Closkey said. “We have a lot of retired military and law enforcement members, so we are a very patriotic bunch.”

The OTC HOG believes that veterans need their help because the Veteran Administration does not recognize service animals as a prosthetic need. Through Southeastern Guide Dogs and private donations, The OTC HOG is able to assist visually impaired veterans in having a better life through three levels of service, which are providing a live-in guide dog to visually impaired veteran, providing comfort to a veteran that suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and being a facility therapy dog. “A lot of vets have told me that their guide dog has given them their life back and their freedom,” Closkey said. The goal of the tournament is to raise funds for “Paws for Patriots” and to raise awareness about Southeastern Guide Dogs. Closkey and his group are looking for sponsors and players for this year’s tournament. To help with the tournament, visit or contact Closkey at 654-5155.

For more info on Southeastern Guide Dogs, visit

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Libby Hopkins has been a part of the Brandon community for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of USF with a degree in journalism. She has been a freelance writer for The Osprey Observer Newspaper since 2008. She also the Executive Director of Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association. She is a dog mom to her rescue dog, Marshall. She loves being a part of the Brandon Community and she loves sharing positive news about our community.