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Anonymous donor’s heartfelt gift will aid veterans through WVU Hearts of Gold

Photo of man with dog

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Because of an anonymous gift received during the seventh annual West Virginia University Day of Giving Hearts of Gold will be able to expand its operation to provide more service dogs to Veterans in need.  

Housed in the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, the program provides hands-on learning to animal science and pre-veterinary students who gain experience in canine handling and animal behavior. The students help professional trainers prepare the dogs for a life of service to Veterans who receive the service dogs at no cost.  

The anonymous gift of $100,000 to the Jennifer Mason Hearts of Gold Support Fund will allow the program to add more trainers and more dogs to the program, ultimately serving more military Veterans. 

Photo of man and dog

Gifts like these are critical to provide for dogs’ medical care, food, collars, harnesses and more. The funds will also support organization staff and allow for the hiring of an additional staff member. 

Jean Meade, president and founder of the nonprofit Human Animal Bond — where the program began — said that although there has been much growth since its inception, it is still a small operation.  

“What we really need to do is expand our staff,” she said. “The more resources we get, the more staff we can bring on board. That is required to engage more students, which will help us expand the number of dogs we train, and therefore, the number of Veterans we serve.” 

The minimum amount of time it takes for a dog to complete the program is two years. Hearts of Gold is training 14 dogs, and there are 15 puppies that will begin training soon.    

Program manager and trainer Anne Russell said expansion is top of mind because of the impact the program has had on the Veterans who have applied to the program and matched with a dog. 

“This gift is essential,” Russell said. “I’ve had a lot of Veterans who said their dog saved their life or turned their life around. Some rarely went out in public before getting a service dog. Now, they’re able to go out every day. It has a huge day-to-day impact on them.” 

Depending on available funds, the program has often covered expenses for Veterans who cannot afford to travel to the facility. 

Matt Wilson, professor of animal sciences, said he hopes the support from the anonymous donor will inspire additional supporters from the community.  

“We want to engage more of the community in this incredible program,” Wilson said. “Community members as well as students from anywhere in the University can sign up for a class or volunteer in the community foster program. They can give a large gift, a small one or donations to purchase doggy essentials. There are many ways to get involved; we just hope they do.” 

Photo of sleeping puppies

Aside from financial need, Hearts of Gold is in need of 12 community fosters to care for 12 nine-week-old puppies. The program provides all necessities at no cost to the volunteers. Those interested may attend Thursday’s (March 21) Puppy Party anytime between 10 a.m. and noon at the Animal Science Research, Education and Outreach Center. For those who are unable to attend, contact program director Margaret Kitt at for more information. 

To give to Hearts of Gold, go to the Davis College giving page

Interested Veterans can apply for the program at any time. 

The Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design envisions a world sustainably fed, clothed and sheltered. To learn more about the Davis College, visit Keep up with the latest updates and news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by following @WVUDavis.  



Communications Specialist 
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design