LEEDS — A Leeds Central School classroom conversation about service dogs has led to one of the largest-ever donations given to a Maine nonprofit that trains and pairs shelter dogs with combat-wounded veterans.

Linda Murray, back to camera, of K9s for the Front Line, hugs Leeds Central School teacher Jennifer Groover during a school assembly.

Linda Murray, a co-founder and vice president of Portland-based K9s on the Front Line, visited Leeds Central recently to receive a $4,600 donation to support the organization’s mission to improve the lives of military veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder and/or a traumatic brain injury.

Third- and fourth-grade Leeds Central students got the idea to help a local veteran receive a service dog after seeing photos of the late President George H.W. Bush’s service dog, Sully, in December.

According to Murray, it costs about $3,000 for K9s on the Front Line to select and train a dog for the individual needs of a veteran. Veterans can also have their own dog trained to be a certified service dog. Either way, there is no cost for the veteran.

Murray said the school gift is one of the largest nongrant donations the organization has received in its three year history. Half of the donation to K9s on the Front Line was collected through student fundraisers and donations from the public, and half was given by Vermont pet nutritional supplement company VetriScience.

The company also helped Leeds Central friend and Army veteran Christy Gardner, whose yellow Lab, Lucky Tim, was named by students. VetriScience surprised Gardner with a $10,000 donation that enabled Lucky Tim, who was born with bones missing in one of his front legs, to have a leg amputation surgery with a specialist in February.

Lucky Tim is now 5 months old and has visited Leeds Central about once a week since his surgery as part of his training by Gardner to become a certified therapy dog. Gardner’s goal is for the dog to work at an elementary school when he is a year old.

K9s on the Front Line has paired certified service dogs with veterans throughout Maine. The organization also has a chapter in Missouri.

K9s on the Front Line staff members Gina Blaszyk, left end of front row, and Linda Murray, right end of front row, pose with Leeds Central School students and their teacher, Jennifer Groover.

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