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Mary Cortani

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The Woman behind Operation Freedom Paws
By Mary Lynly

She served nine years in the Army where she learned to train dogs. Her love for animals and the plight of the wounded warrior helped her parlay her knowledge into forming Operation Freedom Paws training dogs to work with Vets and Vets to work with their dog. Her mantra: “Four paws, two feet, one team navigating life together.”

Mary Cortani was nominated for CNN Heroes, people who have accomplished notable feats, and is now among the top ten nominees. Depending on votes there is a possibility of winning $50,000 to $250,000 for her organization.

Mary’s name and position on CNN Heroes was sent to me from Donna Morales of San Jose. Donna is a longtime promoter of bowling and is well known for her tireless coordination of groups to bowl in every manner of tournament. Mary is a bowler and says she has bowled on and off most of her life and steadily the last 14 years – thanks to Donna keeping her involved in the tournaments! A 164 average bowler, Mary is a member of the San Jose USBC and the San Jose 500 Club. Born and raised in Santa Cruz she now resides in Gilroy, California.

Selection of a Vet to participate in the program is according to an application process stemming from a doctor’s reference and if chosen they must commit to the program. She says, “Every day is a heart rending experience watching the progress of the Vet with their dog.” Many feel they are still in a combat zone and have lost the will to exist and for many it is the invisible wounds. The dogs keep them grounded and give them purpose. The animals come from shelters and rescue groups and Operation Freedom Paws help them navigate life together.

Operation Freedom Paws is a non-profit organization, and since 2010 has paired dogs with 80 Vets who have visible wounds such as post traumatic distress disorder. Bowlers everywhere could make it possible for Mary to get support for this worthy project by voting for her every day! Go to heroes.cnn.com and click on Vote and then Mary Cortani’s picture – put in your email and follow directions. You can vote 10 times each day – let’s do it!


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