Christy Gardner is a woman who uses her personal experiences for inspiration. An Army veteran, she now focuses her service on providing disabled individuals with properly trained service dogs through Mission Working Dogs (MWD).
And she’s the President and founder of the organization.
“I was injured overseas in 2006 and paired with my first service dog, Moxie, a few years later. Moxie was a major asset to my daily life and inspired me to train dogs for others,” said Gardner. Eventually, the demand became too great and there were few programs in Maine to accommodate the volume of requests.
Gardner knew there was a solution. In 2020, she worked with a team of people to create MWD, a non-profit. Gardner said the reason was simple: “We wanted to help more people.” She also wanted to see those living with disabilities live more independently.
MWD is a team of seven women who help fulfill the mission. As a female leader, Gardner understands the need to have strong female role models, “I grew up at a time when there weren’t many female leaders in business, government, or other industries. I’ve always been an athlete and looked up to people like Mia Hamm and the UConn Women’s basketball team. I love any sports or business venture that works like a team, relies on each other’s strengths, and complements each other’s weaknesses. To me, that’s what makes us a successful unit.”
Gardner turned to business partners to help sustain the mission. She connected with Unum in 2020 and shares Unum employees have volunteered over 200 hours assisting in training dogs and hosting fundraisers to cover expenses like veterinarian bills.
Unum supports MWD through the Healthier Communities program where the company assists those who are disproportionately at risk of adverse health outcomes like access to essential services and equity in health.
Unum recently donated $120,000 to help fund a 10-building, wheelchair-accessible campus in Oxford, Maine where individuals with disabilities spend two weeks training and bonding with their future service dog.
If you want to help support the mission, volunteer, or donate, visit Mission Working Dogs.