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Way to Battle Donates Battle Pups to Highland Elementary Students and Staff

Students receiving Battle Dogs

February 10, 2023 -- Kristin Martin and her family believe that no matter what someone is going through, they should not have to face it alone. So, their non-profit organization, Way to Battle, is on a mission to provide comfort and companionship to people of all ages facing difficult battles in their lives. 

Student with Battle Dog“Everybody is going through hard things. Whether it’s the depression that makes it hard for you to walk outside your door, the anxiety that makes it hard to take a test, or that you lost someone, every battle is hard, and we all feel it,” Martin said. “The biggest thing for us is to make sure no one goes through those things by themselves.”

The Martin family started Way to Battle after their son, Brady, was diagnosed with leukemia. During hospital visits, he and his family found comfort in purchasing stuffed animals and giving them away to fellow patients. After seeing the joy it brought, they expanded the effort and have sent thousands of stuffed dogs – "Battle Pups" – to people facing challenges in their lives. 

“Through this, we’re trying to find a purpose for our pain,” Martin said. “We found the softest, cuddliest dogs we could find, and we named them Battle Pups because we believe you have been armed with strength for the battle you’re facing.”

The dogs come in a variety of breeds; the family selects each to fit a person’s specific battle best. 

Highland Elementary School staff members lost one of their own in January, special education instructional assistant Jamika Summerville. Students and staff were deeply affected by her passing, and in response, the Martins and their friends brought pups to the school. To support the Highland community, they donated a dog for every staff member and student.

The German Shepherd and Australian Shephard were selected for Highland staff as their battle companions. The German Shepherd represents protection, and the Australian Shepherd is to help those overcoming loss. 

“These dogs are so important to us and mean so much to us. The dogs we selected were very intentional,” Martin explained. 

The Martins selected the dogs provided to staff, but they wanted to give students a chance to choose the dog that best suited them. Each student approached a table where different dogs sat, waiting to be selected. They examined them closely – picking the dogs up and testing how they felt held in their arms. Then, one by one, each student chose a Battle Pup to be their companion. 

Student with Battle Dog“They look so cute,” one student said. “I want to keep mine forever.”

Students and staff alike felt the impact of the donation. Courtney Ryan is a school social worker at Highland. She said receiving a Battle Pup was a reminder that she and her fellow school community members do not need to face their battles alone. 

“This has not only been a hard few weeks, but a hard few years for our Highland community. We’re experiencing grief as a whole school, but there are also a lot of staff and students going through their own individual tough times,” Ryan said. “I think that having this organization come out and show us that we are loved and cared about means the world to us.”

Over the past two weeks, the Martin family has given away over 2,500 Battle Pups, many of which went to Central Ohio school communities. Along with Highland, Way to Battle donated dogs to students and staff at Pickerington Ridgeview Junior High in response to a tragedy that impacted their school campus. 

Columbus City Schools’ Director of Whole Child Supports, Marvella Allen, was on site at Ridgeview when the donation came in. Allen was at the school to provide additional support to the Ridgeview team. While there, she had the chance to speak with the Martin family and learn about their mission which strongly resonated with her.

“No one expected them. The family came in and said, ‘You don’t know us, but we heard about what happened. This is who we are and what we do. We brought our pups here for you to give to anyone who might need it,’” Allen explained. “Their generosity touched my heart. To be able to give to people in the midst of their own battle is amazing.”

The Martins are excited to continue their mission. This year, they aim to give away 5,000 Battle Pups so that others can feel the same love and support they brought to the Ridgeview and Highland communities. With their Battle Pup, the Martins hope recipients will know they’re not facing their challenges alone.

Power of One

Priority 1 - Whole Child FocusedPriority 2 - Equitable Opportunities for AllPriority 3 - Strong Learning Communities in Every RegionPriority 4 - Authentic EngagementPortrait Attribute 1 - AdaptabilityPortrait Attribute 2 - CommunicationPortrait Attribute 3 - CreativityPortrait Attribute 4 - Critical ThinkingPortrait Attribute 5 - Global EmpathyPortrait Attribute 6 - Technology