Pets for Vets: Sigma Puppies raise PTSD awareness

Photo Courtesy of Connor Coughlin

Livia Paula, Features Editor

Dogs are universally known to be men’s best friends. Dog owners see them as part of their families, and sometimes for many people, dogs might be the only family they have. Service dogs can make someone’s life easier as well, as they are the eyes for those who are blind, or they can substitute the “calm pill” for those who are having anxiety attacks.

For the veterans whom fought for their country in the war, dogs can be a very helpful and cute medicine when it comes to their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).                                   

According to, owning a dog brightens up your mood.

They also provide their owners a sense of companionship, so they know they are not alone.

On Tuesday, Oct. 19, outside the Veterans Success Center office located in Marillac hall’s cafeteria, there was something different going on. Aside from the members of Sigma Pi fraternity selling food to raise money to Veterans, there were also some very special guests: service dogs and therapy dogs.

Sigma Pi Fraternity hosted “Sigma Puppies,” where they collaborated with the St John’s University Student Veterans Association to not only gather donations but to also raise PTSD awareness on war veterans.

“Dogs help with the mood, they’re good companions, they take orders very well,” Junior Richard Cantoral, Sigma Pi’s Secretary, said. “These dogs definitely have saved many veterans in terms of mental wellness and emotional wellness.”

According to Cantoral, all proceeds will go to the St. John’s veterans’ center so they can create their own banner to walk the Veterans Day parade in November.

According to Mandi Dillinger, any topic of mental illness is easily overlooked, and it is important to make these issues known.

“I think mental illness in this country is such a taboo and it’s really important that

people become aware and know that it’s not something that you can see on the

news,” Dillinger said. Associate Dean for Student Engagement, Mary Pelkowski, also oversees the Veteran Affairs here at SJU. She said that Sigma Puppies was “a wonderful and creative way to support our SJU veterans, and raise awareness for PTSD.”

Pelkowski also said that as the Veteran population grows at SJU, to raise awareness on this issue is important in order to “celebrate, appreciate and realize the challenges” that our veterans face in their lives.

“I applaud Andrew Calvano and Tyler DeFranco of Sigma Pi Fraternity for their vision, dedication and execution of this event,” Pelkowski said.

“Our veterans were extremely thankful and humble that Sigma Pi organized such an event that engaged so many students.” According to Calvano, Veterans who serve this country has been a huge part of this life. “I always felt it was necessary to give back to the ones who have served for your freedom and your rights,” he said.

Calvano was positive on the outcome of the event even before it happened.

“We chose Sigma Puppies because we knew it would be a great event to bring out the crowd so we can raise enough donations for the student veterans association,”

he said. Calvano also said that it is important to support PTSD, a huge issue in this country.

“What better way to honor the veterans and give back to the school at the same time?” He said.