When Ronnie — a viewer from New Jersey — nominated Sergeant Mark Eberle to be on our show, it was because she wanted to spread awareness about the nonprofit Mark founded, Paws Healing Heroes.
After serving in the Army for 16 years, Mark Eberle is saving lives with his organization.
"He has a heart of gold," Ronnie says. "He actually started out needing a service dog for himself. Going through the process of trying to get himself a dog, he realized how much money it was going to cost … it just kind of spiraled into Paws Healing Heroes."
Paws Healing Heroes rescues dogs, supplies the necessary training and certificates and gives them to veterans in need, completely free of charge.
"We're trying desperately to build a facility that we can house our training dogs in, and also have somewhere that our veterans can go to do some training with these dogs," Ronnie says
Mark has already helped 24 veterans — which means he's also saved 24 dogs from shelters and given them each new purpose.
One service animal alone can cost about $5,000, Rach explains.
"This is why I wanted to nominate him," Ronnie continues. "He deserves to be recognized. He deserves for people to know how awesome he is and the good that he's doing."
Since we're in our 13th season, it was a no-brainer for Mark to be selected as one of our "Lucky 13" recipients.
Rach had him on the show (along with his service dog, Batman) so he could share his story — or so he thought.
Ronnie wanted to thank him for all that he's done, so she came out and surprised him. But even that wasn't all!
Ronnie was followed by five of the veterans and service dogs who Mark matched up, all there to thank Mark.
And, thanks to our friends at Petmate, we were able to not only take care of the $7,000 Mark needs for the new facility, but also provide Paws Healing Heroes with 100 collars and leashes for future shelter dogs Mark and his team are going to train.
Rach also surprised him with a year's worth of Nutrish® dog food for the kennel.
Watch the video above to see Mark's reaction to all of the surprises.