Powell Tribune // February 16, 2017

Internet users rally to raise funds for war and service dog memorial

By CJ Baker, Powell Tribune

Charity users donate more than $142,700

Thanks in part to the U.S. Secretary of Energy and a community of internet users, a planned monument in Cody to honor war dogs and their handlers will become a reality.

Last week, Chive Charities — the charitable arm of the entertainment website theCHIVE — helped raise more than $142,700 to create and install a memorial for war and service dogs at the State of Wyoming Veterans Memorial Park in Cody.

The larger-than-life bronze will feature a dog and handler, modeled off of Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Bessler of Powell and his military combat/service dog Michael. The idea for a monument came after “Major Mike” was shot and killed by a bicyclist in rural Powell in October 2015.

“It’s kind of sad what happened, of how we got to that point,” Bessler said of the recent fundraiser, adding, “but it shows to me that people do care, they do care what happens with these dogs that have saved lives and ... they’re compassionate about the goal of, ‘Let’s do this and make sure it’s going to be a wonderful monument and something people will come and look at.’”

Bessler noted the monument will be a tribute to all war and service dogs through the ages.

Chive Charities’ efforts pushed the monument from well short of its fundraising goal to well beyond it.

“I worked on this for about a year,” Buck Wilkerson, a leader of the effort and a Cody veteran, said Friday. “Everybody was totally convinced that there’s no way in hell I could ever get it done; it was all pie in the sky — until I showed them that check I got (Feb. 1 for) $60,000.”

Chive Charities bolstered that initial $60,000 grant by asking theChive.com users to contribute another $50,000 on Thursday, Feb. 9. Thousands of the site’s so-called “Chivers” responded to knock out that goal in a matter of five hours, then donated another $32,000 over the following hours and days.

“I would say nothing but the very best about them,” Wilkerson said of Chive Charities. “They have been extraordinary, and they’re serious about helping in the projects that they’re doing. There’s just no way in the world that they can be considered anything other than outstanding.”

Brian Mercedes, the executive director of Chive Charities, said it was a fairly typical “flash charity campaign” for the nonprofit organization — though he added that the online community’s response “blows us away every time.”

For the first couple years of its existence, “theCHIVE was just kind of funny photos, viral videos, good-looking women,” Mercedes said.

(The site has stuck to those roots; recent headlines include, “Get back in the game with some girls in sports bras (30 Photos)” and “Intense cat desperately needs a croissant (Video).”)

The site took on a new dimension around 2010, when people started asking for help, Mercedes said. TheCHIVE co-founder John Resig began posting links to various causes — such as to help children in need — and Chivers would .....


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