Soldier’s Best Friend
Who: Nonprofit benefiting soldiers with PTSD or traumatic brain injury by pairing a shelter dog needing adoption with a veteran or active military member to aid both soldiers and dog overpopulation
How to help: Go to soldiersbestfriend.org/donate/memoriam-honorarium/ and mention Neil Grehlinger in the in-memoriam donation form.
For more information: Visit Grehlinger’s blog, www.seattletocharlestonviavabiketour.blogspot.com/
Charleston, S.C.-based Neil Grehlinger is cycling approximately 4,000 miles across the U.S. to help match rescue dogs and soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Grehlinger, 58, cycled from Portland, Ore., to Gainesville in the last two months and will continue home to Charleston, S.C. He is cycling to raise awareness for the nonprofit agency Soldier’s Best Friend.
“I had been thinking about something I could do to pay back,” Grehlinger said. “I think I’m a lot like most Americans in that we’ve forgotten frequently that there was a war going on in Afghanistan and Iraq. When I would remember, or see a body count on TV, I’d just feel guilty and think, ‘We’re not paying enough attention to our fellow countrymen.’”
Soldier’s Best Friend works to aid veteran or active military members with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries by uniting them with a compatible, adoptable dog. The dogs are selected from shelters based on temperament, according to Grehlinger. Dogs and owners receive training with dog trainers and psychologists in the corporation’s home state of Arizona.
Grehlinger said his daughter helped him pick the organization as a way to give back.
“She said, ‘I know what you need to do. You love dogs and you want to help veterans,’” Grehlinger explained. “That’s Soldier’s Best Friend.”
Grehlinger said, prior to this trip, he had never traveled more than 50 miles on a bike. He stopped Tuesday in Gainesville after traveling more than 3,600 miles and crossing through 10 states since leaving Portland on July 14.
“I was very, very apprehensive about doing this,” he admitted.
So far, he’s raised approximately $800 for the nonprofit, a figure he called “disappointing.”
“I’m really disappointed by that, to be quite honest with you,” he said. “I have about 200 people that follow me a day on my blog, and I know it’s not the same 200 people every day. ... I work really hard on my blog to inform and entertain and give great pictures. I felt like that’s my deal, I will do that and at the end of it, readers would give.”
Grehlinger said if every person who read his story donated 1 cent per mile he rides, it would cost $50 per person. He said it costs Soldiers Best Friend approximately $2,000 per dog, and he hopes to raise considerably more money before he reaches Charleston.
Many people Grehlinger encountered on his ride so far have opened not only their wallets but their homes to him and his cause. He said strangers have allowed him to stay in their homes or businesses when he needed a place to sleep.
“The best part of all this is the people who have renewed my confidence in the American spirit,” he said. “People haven’t given to the extent I hoped to Soldier’s Best Friend, but certainly they have given to me.”
Grehlinger will next travel to Greenville, S.C., Charlotte, N.C. and Columbia S.C. before finishing in Charleston. He encourages people to donate to Soldier’s Best Friend at soldiersbestfriend.org/donate/memoriam-honorarium and follow his journey on his blog,www.seattletocharlestonviavabiketour.blogspot.com.