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Residents and Branchburg Recreation Recognized

Post Date:12/01/2017 9:30 AM
SOMERVILLE -  Freeholder Deputy Director Patrick Scaglione presented citations at a freeholders’ meeting to several county residents and the Branchburg Recreation Department Summer Camp Counselors and Campers for contributions to the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit.

The Branchburg Recreation Department Summer Camp was recognized for raising $6,150 through various fundraising events. Also, James Wiater of Millstone, a local author; Elaine Brogan of Branchburg; Mary Beth Ferris of Somerville; and Kim Van Note of Branchburg, on behalf of the Basilone Memorial Foundation, in remembrance of WWII hero Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone, raised funds to purchase a protective vest for K-9 Basilone, Somerset County’s newest officer. Ms. Van Note is the niece of Sgt. Basilone.

The vest donation was partially made possible by proceeds from a children’s book written by Mr. Wiater, titled “The Adventures of Solo, The Big Dog.”  The book was named after K-9 Solo who was killed in the line of duty in Bradley Beach in 1998.  Since the book’s publishing in August 2016, Mr. Wiater has donated several articles of K-9 safety equipment, including ballistic vests, oxygen kits and a K-9 trauma kit to several law enforcement agencies. 

Each K-9 vest costs $2,800.  Due to the generous contributions from the community, there was no cost to taxpayers. The vests are custom fit to each dog’s specific measurements, allowing full range of motion to ensure mobility and agility. They are lightweight and can be put on the dog in less than 30 seconds.

“On behalf of the Sheriff’s Office, I would like to thank Kim Van Note, James Wiater, Mary Beth Ferris, Elaine Brogan and the Branchburg Recreation Department Summer Camp Counselors and Campers for their generous contributions to the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit.  Without their contributions, the K-9 Unit would not be possible,” said Sheriff Frank J. Provenzano. “Serving and keeping the citizens of Somerset County safe is our main goal.  We are thankful for their generosity and are indebted to them.”

The Branchburg Recreation Department Summer Camp raised the funds during a six- week period in which the children selected the law enforcement dogs as a charitable cause.  Various fundraisers were conducted throughout the six-week camp.  K-9 Basilone and Officer Shannon DiNella, his handler, attended the National Night Out at the culmination of the campers’ efforts. 

The funds will be utilized to offset the cost of dog food, equipment, routine and emergency veterinary expenses, training classes and materials, K-9 vehicle equipment and other expenses. 

The Somerset County Sheriff’s K-9 Unit consists of three handlers and four K-9s.  They are available 24/7, 365 days a year to assist local, county, state and federal agencies.  Since 2003, they have been deployed to close to 2,000 incidents.  The unit has recovered narcotics totaling $2.9 million, six guns and $220,000 in currency.

The K-9s are a valuable asset to the Project Lifesaver Program, whereby clients (children and adults) who have cognitive impairment wear a personalized wristband that emits a signal in the event they are missing. 

The officers in the K-9 Unit also take an active part in reaching out to the community.  In addition to emergency response, the K-9 Unit takes part in numerous parades, demonstrations and other community events.

For more information about the Somerset County K-9 Unit, contact Capt. Steve SanAntonio at (908) 231-7168.

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