Heroes come in many different shapes and sizes. Our heroes may be short, tall, fast, strong or possibly even covered in fur. It is those animal heroes that the Wellington Rotary Club’s Kevlar for K9s fundraiser aims to protect.
Heroic moments can and do occur at any given time at any given place, often when they are least expected. Heroes and their heroic moments are not predestined. They just happen, such as the sacrifice made by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office K9 Cigo last Christmas Eve.
While Wellington residents were celebrating the holiday, perhaps in church, singing Christmas carols, finishing up holiday shopping or enjoying time at home with friends and family, a heroic incident occurred in a most unlikely location by a most unlikely hero. While helping subdue a violent criminal in the parking lot near the Mall at Wellington Green, Cigo was shot and later died from his injuries.
Not only did Cigo become a hero that night, but the three-year-old dog gave his life in the process of doing what he was trained to do — protect the public.
Since then, Wellington locals have sprung into action, and fundraising efforts are now underway with help from two local organizations to raise enough money to buy protective bulletproof Kevlar vests for as many PBSO K9s as possible.
Kevlar for K9s is a raffle fundraiser being run by the Wellington Rotary Club, which is selling raffle tickets for $100 apiece between now and May 16. This raffle is being sponsored by local law firm Lesser, Lesser, Landy, & Smith. The winning raffle ticket will be drawn on May 16, and you don’t have to be present to win. The holder of the winning ticket will receive one-third of the raffle funds, while the remaining two-thirds of the total collected will go to Kevlar for K9s and other Rotary charities.
“When we heard about K9 Cigo losing his life, organizing a fundraiser to buy Kevlar vests for the dogs seemed like the right thing to do,” Wellington Rotary Club President Tom Carreras said. “The club likes to help the local community where there’s a need. Plus, a fundraiser like this fits well with our motto at Rotary, which is ‘Service Above Self.’”
The club also has close ties to the PBSO, which makes the fundraising effort that much more rewarding.
Rotarian Mickey Smith, a partner at Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, is proud that his firm stepped up to sponsor this important fundraiser.
“Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith is proud to partner with Rotary’s efforts,” Smith said. “Our law firm has represented many Wellington residents through the years, and we have an office in Wellington. As a firm, we believe that we have an obligation to give back to the communities we serve — the communities where we live and work. It’s in our DNA. Throughout our 91-year history in Palm Beach County, the firm has partnered with many initiatives to make a positive difference in the community. Here, we are thrilled to be involved in the Rotary Club of Wellington’s efforts to protect these amazing, four-legged sheriff’s deputies.”
Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith is a third-generation law firm that has been representing injured clients and their families across Florida for more than 91 years. In that time, the firm has grown to four offices located in West Palm Beach, Stuart, Wellington and Boca Raton primarily representing clients and their families who have suffered serious injury or the loss of a loved one due to the negligence of another.
Smith said he was heartbroken when he heard about the incident involving Cigo on Christmas Eve.
“As a member of the Rotary and a resident of Wellington for more than 25 years, I was devastated when K9 Cigo was shot by a cowardly thug,” Smith said. “Cigo epitomized Rotary’s motto of ‘Service Above Self.’ He literally gave his life in service of our community. While a bad person wrote the beginning of this horrible story, I was confident that the community, working together, could salvage some good from this tragedy. The Rotary’s initiative both honors K9 Cigo and helps protect other brave sheriff’s dogs by providing them Kevlar bulletproof vests. The response from the Wellington community has been incredible. Every ticket purchaser will have the satisfaction of helping make a positive difference here in our community.”
Officials from the PBSO are thankful for the club’s efforts.
“We are greatly appreciative of the fact that the Wellington Rotary is holding this fundraiser for the bulletproof vests for the K9s,” PBSO Chief Deputy Michael Gauger said. “The dogs do what they are trained to do, and they do what they love. They are tremendous athletes who work in a very stressful environment. They are chasing and dealing with some of the worst criminals out there in the county.”
Gauger noted that the K9s have saved the lives of law enforcement officers on multiple occasions.
“It just goes to show the importance of giving that extra protection for those dogs,” Gauger explained. “I am personally contributing to the Kevlar for K9s fund.”
The Wellington Rotary Club has been working to promote the Kevlar for K9s raffle at community events in the area, such as the animal rescue and adoption event Paws at the Mall held Friday, April 5 at the Mall at Wellington Green and annual Wellington Egg Hunt held Saturday, April 20 at Village Park.
For the fundraiser to make a real difference, many tickets must be sold, since each K9 vest will cost more than $1,000. According to Carreras, the current goal is to sell at least 500 raffle tickets, which means the winning raffle ticket would be worth more than $16,000. As of mid-April, more than 350 tickets had been sold.
“Our initial goal was to raise enough money to buy Kevlar vests for one of the two K9s in Wellington,” Carreras said. “Now, we know that we will surpass our initial goal.”
Both Smith and Carreras have acknowledged that the strong purchasing response from the general public confirms that Kevlar for K9s is a great cause worth supporting.
Also, all 50 members of the club are selling tickets and collecting the proceeds for the big drawing on May 16. To buy a ticket, visit www.wellingtonrotary.org or call Carreras at (561) 798-4565.