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Service Dogs -- Whether Furry or Digital -- Take Center Stage At Veterans' Make-a-Thon

photo of Ginger MacCutcheon
Ginger MacCutcheon and her service dog, Sadie, are helping to create the Digi 2.0 digital service dog app along with designer Ralph Hoyt.

Veterans are teaming up with engineers, designers and programmers in Lakewood Monday for a make-a-thon to help make life easier for disabled veterans.

Since Friday, teams at the Challenge America: Makers for Veterans event – or CAMVETS -- have worked at St. Edward High School on projects like a skeletal hand grip for a quadriplegic. Or modifying a motorcycle to be driven with one leg. Ginger MacCutcheon from Norton suffers from PTSD, which she manages with the help of her service dog, Sadie. But the dog is getting older and less mobile, so MacCutcheon and her team are making Digi 2.0, an app that can take the place of her dog when needed.

“This app actually monitors my heart rate and it can tell when I’m having some issues. And it will come up

photo of Anna Sotar, Katie Sotar, Annmarie Halterman, Tiffany Wheeler
Anna and Katie Sotar (left) from Hoyt Running Chairs have been working on a carrier for service dogs with Air Force Veteran Annmarie Halterman (second from right) and her wife, Tiffany Wheeler. Dogs Leigh Ann and Brock have already claimed the prototype.

with some inspirational quotes for me, or pictures of my actual, physical service dog.”

Organizers hope some of the projects can eventually be expanded to the general public, and the Digi 2.0 app is scheduled to be available in the app store this month.

Annmarie Halterman from Virginia also has a service dog to help manage PTSD. She’s working with a team from Hoyt Running Chairs to develop a carrier that attaches to her bicycle for her dog, Leigh Ann.

“I’ve gone through a number of surgeries – around 15 – and I’ve also had heart surgery. And I have an internal prosthetic leg. And she’s with me 4 hours a day. But if I were to go for a ride, I’m not confident that I would get back safely. By having her with me, it gives me confidence not only to go out and ride but also to feel safe.”

The first veterans’ make-a-thon in the country took place in Cleveland earlier this year. Organizers chose the city since it’s home to one of the largest VA hospitals in the country as well several engineering schools and hospital systems.