CENTENNIAL, Colo. (KDVR) — A group of brothers, all survivors of the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, is raising money for a law enforcement therapy dog program by selling garden boxes.
The Watson brothers — BG, Bannon and Brycen — know the dogs of the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s therapy dog program well. Brycen named them off when FOX31 visited them on Tuesday afternoon.
The brothers were all younger than 10 years old when they became survivors of a school shooting.
The boys never returned to STEM after the shooting, instead moving away before returning back to Centennial with their family. The brothers started making garden boxes as a hobby back in 2020 and started selling them. A few months ago, they got the idea to use a part of their profits to give back.
Therapy SRO dogs on double duty
They are giving back to the SRO therapy dog program, a resource not present during the school shooting and one they feel could have made a difference.
“It’s important to us because I was stuck in the art room not knowing what was going on and we were in there for a couple of hours, and it probably could have been solved if we had dogs to help us,” Bannon said.
A third of their profits from the garden boxes go to help build the program. Last month, the Watson brothers handed Deputy John Gray, Rex’s handler and the SRO for their school, close to $850 for training supplies.
“There is not a lot of these programs. There are a lot of K-9 programs, but not a lot of programs that are therapy dogs that can help kids’ mental health in schools, but can also find guns and keep schools safe,” Gray said. “So for them to rally behind that and to actually understand what our purpose is and what our goal is, I think is really powerful.”
Rex is not only trained as a therapy dog but to sniff out guns, weapons and bombs during school threats.
“It’s allowed us to build relationships with a lot of the students, it’s a faster response time and it gives us a better ability to get the kids back in class safer, sooner,” Deputy Gray said.
The boy’s mother said their goal is to raise $6,000 for the program by the end of the summer, and there are ways you can help.
If you’d like to buy a garden box or make a donation, you can reach them through their for-sale page or on Facebook. You can also donate to the Back The Blue effort for these K-9s in Arapahoe County.
‘We’re kids helping other kids’
The boys hope to help make schools safer so no other kid in their community has to feel the fear of a school shooting.
“They said that there has been a lot of kids that are happy to go to school because they feel safe and they don’t feel scared anymore. It’s pretty awesome that we’re kids helping other kids,” Bannon said.