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Dylan Prather did far more than get a jump-start on his senior project early this school year — he’s already got an important part of it completed much to the
delight and benefit of the Columbus Police Department.
Just a month ago the Columbus North student announced his intention to raise more than $15,000 in less than 10 months in order to purchase, train and maintain a new police dog for CPD.
Declining revenue resulting from recent changes in criminal asset-forfeiture laws has prompted many law enforcement agencies to come up with new ways of funding their K-9 programs, Columbus K-9 officer Chad Lehman said.
But due to Prather’s early success, the Columbus Police Department is expecting to purchase a new police dog, choose the canine’s handler-partner and begin training both officer and dog either late this year or in early 2014, Columbus Police Chief Jason Maddix said.
Prather’s original target date of Memorial Day 2014 was a little off. The 17-year-old achieved his goal before Labor Day.
“I am in shock,” Maddix said. “Nobody expected Dylan to raise that kind of money in such little time.”
During a presentation Friday, the Custer Foundation provided Prather’s K-9 fund with a check for $9,405.
Richard Weaver, one of the foundation’s board members, suggested to the other board members that the foundation support Prather’s project, said Bill Helmbrecht, president of the Custer Foundation.
The foundation has a history of providing financial support to local police programs, such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education, Police Athletics and Activities League and Shop With a Cop, so Prather’s project fit well, Weaver said.
The check also is in memory of Susan McGlothlin, Weaver’s daughter, who died recently.
“She was a great lover of animals,” Weaver said.
More than 30 individuals and businesses have donated more than $6,000 since Prather first announced his intention to start the fund July 23, Maddix said. Total donations now put Prather ahead of his $15,300 goal.
In the first two weeks of the campaign, $500 was raised from businesses.
But donations began to increase substantially after Prather’s senior project received media attention, both locally in The Republic and nationwide after the story was distributed by The Associated Press, Maddix said.
“The same morning, we got a $300 check from just one woman,” Maddix said.
While acknowledging that positive stories about both teens and animals are popular, Maddix thinks it was Prather himself who made the story worthy of national attention.
“I think what Americans find most appealing is Dylan’s passion,” Maddix said.
Columbus patrolwoman Julie Quesenbery, whom Prather described as his “biggest mentor and role model,” agreed.
“Imagine — he’s only a month into his senior year,” Quesenbery said. “Dylan is definitely a go-getter. He probably hasn’t slept since this whole thing started.”
While Prather assured Quesenbery, his sixth-grade DARE teacher, that he had slept, the senior is serious about continuing the fundraising effort, despite the fact that he’s already reached his goal.
“I’m not stopping anytime soon,” Prather said. “There’s ongoing costs with the police K-9 program, so we might as well keep it going.”
Quesenbery said she wouldn’t be surprised if Prather’s attitude and senior project success result in scholarships to help the high school senior fulfill his next big goals: graduating from the law enforcement program at Vincennes University and becoming a Columbus K-9 officer.
“It should now be obvious this kid just doesn’t talk about achieving things. He goes out and does it,” Quesenbery said.
City Editor Kirk Johannesen contributed to this story.
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