Freedom Dogs Golf Tournament

Freedom dogs

A trauma surgeon at Palomar Medical Center, Dr. John Steele has been involved with Freedom Dogs since its inception in 2006. “Every year, as soon as registration opens, I am the first to sign up!” says Dr. Steele, speaking of Freedom Dogs’ annual fundraising Golf Tournament, now in its 10th year. “There are a lot of charities out there to choose from, but I cannot think of one where you are so close to the source. You can really see where your money is going. I have already put three foursomes together and I will probably bring more,” Dr. Steele exclaimed. I pay for their entry, and in return I ask these friends to be generous when they are at the event.” Steele’s invitation turns out to be a great recruiting technique: “The cause has resonated with every one of my guests!”


The golf tournament, which will take place on Monday, March 13, 2023 at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club, is the primary fundraiser for Freedom Dogs, a San Diego-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit, dedicated to the training of service dogs for both active and retired American military heroes suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or physical trauma. For 83% of military who have served post 9/11, a loud noise or a sudden movement can send them into a trigger response, making something as simple as leaving the house – impossible. The dogs, along with their trainers, help these heroes to transition back to everyday life. Freedom Dogs has been providing service dogs and trainers to U.S. Marines based at Camp Pendleton since 2009 and in 2022, Freedom Dogs expanded their reach to all branches of the military.

Donors and sponsored members of the military will play 18-holes of golf, followed by a Ball Retrieval Contest, a fundraiser wherein supporters purchase numbered golf balls at $10 each. At the end of the event, a Freedom Dog retrieves one of the balls, and the lucky owner of the retrieved ball gets $1,000.

Dale Yahnke of Dowling & Yahnke Wealth Management, shared with GB Magazine, “I think we owe a lot to our military,” Yahnke says. “Having the opportunity to meet the dogs and to hear the military men and women speak is the highlight of the day.” That is saying a lot, considering that Yahnke has won the tournament every year he has participated. “They come and talk about how the dogs give them purpose and a companion, and how they have changed their lives. It is incredibly inspiring.” Plus, Yahnke says. “I am a dog guy. I know what my dog means to me and my family, so I can only imagine what it means to these heroes who are recovering from the trauma of war.”

Both Steele and Yahnke, coincidentally, have service dogs in their families. Yahnke’s daughter, who has special needs, has a labradoodle, Toby. Dr. Steele’s son-in-law is a former marine with PTSD and has a service dog. “It is easy to see the positive effects that the dogs have on these young people. The lift of emotion out of despair to moments of joy – it may not be easy to measure,” Steele adds. “But it is easy to see.”

To register for the golf tournament, become a sponsor, or enter the ball retrieval contest, visit

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Esteban Villanueva