An organization in Marion County has launched the Marion K-9 Project to raise funds for local law enforcement K-9 units.
The Marion Business Builders Chapter of BNI, headed by Sights Unseen Travel owner Jill Chitwood, is leading the effort to support K-9 programs around the county.
Chitwood said she came up with the idea after talking with her friend and K-9 handler Lieutenant Mark Elliot of the Marion Police Department, who told her that his K-9 Lieutenant Six, the longest-serving K-9 in Marion County, was retiring soon.
“I heard that Lt. Six was going to be retiring soon, and I knew that the cost of a new dog is quite expensive,” Chitwood told The Marion Star. “Our BNI group has been wanting to do things to get more involved in the community. We thought what better way than helping raise funds for the new K-9 or new K-9s, because, actually, all the dogs at the (Marion Police Department) are going to be coming up pretty soon on being able to retire.”
Marion Police Chief Jay McDonald said their current K-9 unit is getting old and will soon need to be replaced. Six will retire this summer, while fellow K-9 Stash — who works on the MARMET Drug Task Force — and Joker with the Patrol Division are both 8 years old.
Between replacing the dogs and training them, the cost can get pretty steep.
“All three of our dogs are getting up there in their seniority, so we have to start planning on how we’re going to replace these dogs in the future and one of them this summer,” McDonald said. “We’re expecting this to cost us tens of thousands of dollars, between the purchase of the dog and the training and the time away from the department that we’ll have to fill that officer’s spot while they’re away at training. It’s going to cost us probably in the $25,000 range when you add everything up.”
Chitwood saw how the Marion County Sheriff’s Office was able to fund their two new K-9 officers, Comet and Viking, through donations from local school districts and decided to come up with her own fundraising event.
She said the Marion K-9 Project plans to host a family fun day on the Ohio State Marion and Marion Technical College campuses, where a cornhole tournament will be held and prizes can be won.
K-9 officers from the police department and sheriff’s office will also be present to provide demonstrations, and the U.S. Army is expected to participate as well.
The main draw, according to Chitwood, will be Ohio State and NFL football players who will attend to sign autographs and pose for photos.
Donations will be accepted by the Marion Noon Kiwanis Foundation on behalf of the Marion K-9 Project.
“I’m just proud to work in a community that supports their law enforcement,” Chief McDonald said. “Every time we’ve ever needed the Marion community, they’ve stepped up. Every K-9 that we’ve had, the community has helped us get, and they’ve always responded when we’ve needed them. That’s not true everywhere, and we’re very lucky to be in a community that supports their law enforcement.”