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2018-03-07 / News

Rex Party raises funds for K-9 bulletproof vests

BY BEN ORCUTT, CONTRIBUTING WRITER


During a fundraiser for police dogs at the DoubleTree Hotel in Midlothian in late February, Fredericksburg K-9 Sgt. Josh Lynch and his furry partner, Lex, put on a demonstration. ASH DANIEL During a fundraiser for police dogs at the DoubleTree Hotel in Midlothian in late February, Fredericksburg K-9 Sgt. Josh Lynch and his furry partner, Lex, put on a demonstration. ASH DANIEL Police dogs may not take an oath to protect and serve, but they do take dangerous risks. And just like their two-legged colleagues, K-9 officers need protection on the job. 

To help local law enforcement agencies with the cost of providing bulletproof vests for police dogs, Chesterfield County resident John Pennington started the Rex Party in 2013.

Pennington, 77, said the inspiration to begin the fundraiser came from his love of dogs and his relationship with friends Ronald and Diane Turner. Ronald Turner’s cousin, Lt. Robert Eugene Frazier Jr., was a K-9 officer with the Charlottesville Police Department; his police dog, Rex, was killed in the line of duty. Ronald and Diane were the ones to suggest the name “Rex” for the fundraising party: a hotel ballroom affair with live music, cash bar and hors d’oeuvres.

Pennington and his wife own Dobermans, as well as an American bulldog.

“We love dogs,” he said, adding that in addition to his wife, their two children and four grandchildren are solidly behind his effort to help purchase vests for police dogs.

The fourth annual Rex Party was held Feb. 24 at the DoubleTree Hotel on Koger Center Boulevard in Midlothian with the Richmond band En’Novation providing the entertainment.  

The owner of Universal Electric in Richmond, Pennington said the previous three Rex parties raised a total of between $25,000 and $30,000 for dog vests and associated training.

While figures for this year’s party are still being tallied, Pennington expects the total raised to be in the neighborhood of $10,000. A single dog vest may cost between $800 and $1,000, he added.

Karen Cheatham, a member of the Rex Party board of directors, said the organization helps fund dog vests for sheriff’s offices in Caroline, Hanover and Powhatan, as well as police departments in Fredericksburg, Henrico and Lynchburg. Cheatham said that any law enforcement agency in Virginia is welcome to contact the organization for assistance with its K-9 program.

“It’s a really important part of our community that we really need to support,” she said. “If we can take that burden off just a little bit, that goes a long way.”

Fredericksburg K-9 Sgt. Josh Lynch and his K-9 partner, Lex, attended Saturday’s party and demonstrated going after a “bad guy,” which impressed those in attendance.

Lynch said following the demo that events like the Rex Party make a big difference in funding canine police work.

“It means a whole lot to us,” he said. “We rely a lot on community help and community donations to fund certain things.”

Lex is a Shepherd breed from Hungary and Lynch said it’s a pleasure to work with him.

“The most rewarding thing is when he makes that big find or does that important thing,” Lynch said. “I guess what’s even more rewarding than that is getting to work with him every day and go home with him every day. [He’s] one of my best friends in the world.”

Mechanicsville resident Lila Bell sponsored three tables at the party and considers it money well spent. Sponsorships ranged from $600 to $1,000 for a table of 10 and included drink tickets and hors d’oeuvres. People also had the option of purchasing individual “standing room” tickets to attend the party. Patrons attended from throughout Central Virginia.

“It’s awesome,” Bell said. “I love what we’re doing, trying to protect the police dogs.”

Fredericksburg Det. Patrick Lamb attended the party and said the vests – which weigh about 15 pounds and are made of Kevlar, the same protective component used in bulletproof vests for human officers – make a real difference.

 “Spotsylvania had a situation last year where a suspect fled,” he said. “He had weapons and drugs on him and he shot at the dog, so it does happen. The dog turned out fine; then the bad guy got caught.”

Like others who support the Rex Party events, Lamb has great praise for what Pennington and his group do for area law enforcement agencies.

“He’s the straw that stirs the drink,” Lamb said. “He’s great to work with. I cannot say enough good things about the gentleman.” |

For more information, visit www.policek9rva.com.

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