Inspired By Faith
In 2001, Project 2 Heal Co-founders Charlie and Sandy Petrizzo and their two young daughters Melissa and Kristen moved from their home and family in New Jersey to the Charlotte North Carolina area when Charlie was offered a great opportunity with a financial institution. Unfortunately, only two and a half years later Sandy’s dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. He passed away a month later. Charlie’s mom Carolyn was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. She passed away a year later.
While Charlie was doing very well in his new position he began to carry the burden for Sandy not being able to be with her mother during the time she needed her most. He also felt the burden of not being able to help his father and two brothers in the care for his mother. This led to a period of deep depression and resulted in Charlie leaving his role with the financial Institution despite the success his division was having.
Charlie’s therapist suggested he read a book entitled, "The Power of Positive Thinking," by Norman Vincent Peale. One of the practices suggested in the book was to find positive biblical verses, memorize them and repeat them to oneself throughout the day. Opening the Bible was a first small step to what was to become the start of a journey deep into his catholic faith and the key to Charlie’s recovery.
Only a month or so after he started reading the Bible Charlie was listening to talks about faith. Whenever he would travel in his car Charlie would listen to talks on CD from Lighthouse Catholic Media. These talks led Charlie to gain even a deeper understanding of his faith and a desire to serve God with his talents. After his “conversion” Charlie began each and every day by reciting the morning hours of the Liturgy or, Lauds, attending daily mass, and staying after mass to recite the holy rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet with other parishioners.
In his younger years Charlie would ask God why he allowed these accidents to happen to him. However, as his faith grew he began to ask “Lord, why did you allow me to survive two accidents that could have killed me?” From his childhood Charlie loved animals, especially dogs. In fact, the family dog, Toby, a Labrador retriever mix was pivotal in Charlie’s emotional recovery after he was burned. Charlie began to think that it was the love of dogs that God had given him that might be the answer to what God was calling him to do.
"Charlie began to think his love of dogs may be the answer to what God was calling him to do."
While searching the internet one day Charlie came across the results of a research study conducted by Paws with A Cause, a well known service dog organization. The study was done to determine how well dogs taken from shelters would do when placed in training to become a service dog. The study found that over the long term only 1 out of 8 dogs, or 12.5% dogs taken from a shelter were able to be partnered with a person in need. The problem was that many service dog organizations are a labor of love and many very good service dog organizations had no choice but to search through shelters for service dog candidates. This fact leads to those in need of a service dog having to wait sometimes 3 years or more for a service dog!
When Charlie learned about this he knew what God was calling him and his wife Sandy, also a dog lover, to do. However, they did not have the space in their home or property needed to begin the work Charlie now knew he was called to do. In his studying of the faith he learned the principle of subsidiary. In short, subsidiarity indicates that private property should be used for public good. Many people adhere to this by making financial donations to their church.
Charlie took this recently learned principle of his faith as God’s way of leading him to find a property where he and Sandy would have the space and property to begin their ministry.
Project 2 Heal utilizes a nature /nurture process to produce puppies that are ideal candidates for service dog work. Only dogs with outstanding health and genetics are used in the program. Once born all Project 2 Heal puppies undergo a very structured nurturing, socializing and early training process.
Today more than 20 service dog organizations across the country call on Project 2 Heal to donate the pups they need for their service dog training. Feedback from partners organizations suggest that approximately 75% of the puppies donated by Project 2 Heal to these partners are successful partnered with a person in need. The success of Project 2 Heal pups in service dog training reduce both the wait and the cost of a service dog.
Project 2 Heal puppies are donated to organizations that serve people from many walks of life, from children with special needs to adults with disabilities and veterans with PTSD.