This story is part of a series for the Helping Hand initiative, a digital fundraising campaign for the Scottish Rite Grand Almoner’s Fund in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Almoner’s Fund exists to help Scottish Rite Brothers in need, and this campaign will ensure that we are able to do just that. The goal of this campaign is to successfully raise $100,000.

When Brother Sean Stradley, 32°, was on duty as a police patrolman, he suffered a traumatic brain injury and permanent spinal cord injury during an altercation with a suspect. His injuries left him permanently disabled and forced him to retire before he turned 45.

Doctors recommended a service dog to help improve his quality of life, but the high cost of securing this life-changing helper seemed an impossible hurdle. That’s when the Grand Almoner’s Fund stepped in to help this worthy Brother. The story that follows was told by Brother Sean as he prepared to meet his service dog for the first time.

“I wanted to tell you how honored I am to share my story. My Scottish Rite Brothers have helped tremendously in raising funds for my service dog. I was hesitant at first to reach out for help. Pride sometimes gets in the way. But I was encouraged as my mother told me how much the Masons helped my father when he was sick.

With that information, I decided to send an email asking where I might go to possibly get help. I was contacted right away, and things took off from there! As a matter of fact, I am flying out tomorrow to Florida to meet and be paired with my service dog - or as Guardian Angels calls them, ‘a medical device with a heartbeat.’

This has been a long process starting with an extensive application, background check, review of my medical records, and selection process. Guardian Angels works primarily with veterans, police and other first responders – professions that many of our Brothers like myself are called to in order to fulfill our obligation of service. The organization specializes in training dogs for those suffering with PTSD like myself. There is a very long waiting list for their dogs, and they have a process to prioritize who gets a dog first and work to be as fair as possible.

Once I was selected, they had to identify my specific needs that the dog could help me with. These included helping me deal with my PTSD, assisting me with my balance, retrieving items for me, and more. Since Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, Inc. is a non-profit organization, they rely on sponsors and donations to pay for their service dogs. Each dog costs approximately $25,000, which includes raising, training and veterinary care.

Brother Stradley with his service dog
Brother Stradley with his service dog

Each recipient is asked to fundraise as much of that amount as possible to help offset the organization’s costs, and the money is put towards the raising and training of another dog. Between a GoFundMe that one of my sons created and the amazing generosity of my Brothers, I’m proud to say that we have raised almost the entire amount. I now have a fire inside, and I want to see what I can do to help raise more funds for Guardian Angels so they can continue to do their great work.

This has been a long road. Now, finally, after two and a half years, I have made it to the top of the list. They have raised and trained a dog specifically to meet my needs. I can’t wait to meet him. I want to thank everyone at the Scottish Rite. I know this dog will change my life.” – Brother Sean A. Stradley, 32°, New York

To donate to the Helping Hand Initiative and help support the Grand Almoner’s Fund, visit DonateRite.org.