Service dog ‘Flynn’ honors memory of local M.S. advocate Shane FlynnBy SPECIAL TO THE WINONA TIMES,
You can hear the pride in Rachel Flynn's voice when she talks about her father Shane - "a great dad who was always there for everyone and always made sure to tell me how proud of me he was."
A Winona native, Shane Flynn graduated from Winona High School and went on to work as a MRI Technologist a Baptist Health System in Jackson. Flynn was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis while working at Baptist and shortly afterwards became a big advocate in the fight to raise awareness about M.S.
Shane suddenly passed away on January 20, 2017, but Shane's name, his advocacy for M.S., and his genuine love for his family and friends have not been forgotten. It lives on through the work of a young Great Dane named "Flynn."
Named in Shane Flynn's honor, Flynn the Great Dane has been trained as a service dog by the SD Gunner Fund, a non-profit organization the provides service dogs to wounded veterans and special needs children. The SD Gunner Fund was founded by Britnee Greenlee Kinard, a Kilmichael native who found a way to give back after her husband was injured while serving in Iraq.
SD Flynn has spent the latter part of 2017 being trained in Columbia, S.C., by SD Gunner Fund Training Director James Quarterman. He spent 2018 finishing his training with Britnee Kinard in Richmond Hill, Ga.
"Shane and I grew up together. I remember him working at the grocery store when I was a kid. As adults, we talked at least once a week and he was always very interested in our service dogs and what we did for veterans and children" said Britnee Greenlee Kinard, founder of the SD Gunner Fund. “When I got word of his passing, it literally took my breath away. I immediately thought of Rachel because Shane never went more than two minutes without talking about her and how much he loved her.
“I lost a piece of my heart the day Shane died,” added Kindard. "My husband and I wanted to find a way to give back to Rachel and honor Shane in a way that I thought he would approve of. So after much discussion between ourselves and Rachel and her mom, we decided to do a service dog in his honor. There was one stipulation. We had to find a veteran in Mississippi who was in need of a service dog but that also was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis."
U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, Sgt. Lance McElhenney, was just the man they were looking for. Sgt. McElhenney joined the Marines in November of 2003. He was later deployed to Iraq in 2004, Okinawa in 2005, Iraq in 2006, and Okinawa in 2010. Sgt. McElhenney earned his Purple Heart for his actions in June 2004 after receiving shrapnel from a mortar round and suffering a severe head injury while in Iraq. He retired in November 2011 after being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Multiple Sclerosis.
SD Gunner Fund and Rachel Flynn presented SD Flynn to Sgt. McElhenney on March 12, 2018, at the Mississippi State University Veterans Center.
"Words cannot express how I feel right now," said McElhenney. "When I heard Rachel's story, it was hard to swallow. I don't think I'll ever be able to repay her for the kindness she has shown me -- a complete stranger. As a Marine, I will make it my mission to carry her father's memory through SD Flynn. Flynn will be my battle buddy in life, and I want nothing more than to make Rachel proud that she chose me."
SD Flynn has been trained to assist Sgt. McElhenney with his PTSD and also his mobility. Counter-balance, bracing, and seating assistance are just a few things he can assist with.