First responders, K-9 units benefit from premiere fundraiser on Saturday

Published 11:04 am Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What started as an idea for sharing the positive aspects of Virginia’s hound hunting heritage culminated in a daylong celebration for the entire community this past Saturday. Nearly 1,000 people, some from as far away as Nelson and Tazewell counties, attended the inaugural “Hoses and Hounds” event at the Southampton County Fairgrounds, an event co-hosted by Virginia Hound Heritage and Boykins Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad.

William Hart Gillette, president of Virginia Hound Heritage, said, “I thought it was very well received and was better than anticipated.”

Southampton County Sheriff Jack Stutts, left, with Deputy Rob Bushing and Molly from Southampton. -- Tony Clark | Tidewater News

Southampton County Sheriff Jack Stutts, left, with Deputy Rob Bushing and Molly from Southampton. — Tony Clark | Tidewater News

Gillette first conceived the idea for the event after both the Southampton and Sussex County boards of supervisors passed resolutions last fall in support of hunting with hounds.

“It seemed at that time that the hunting culture was under attack and seemed to be diminishing,” referring to efforts by some to eliminate hunting with hounds in Virginia. In response to the resolutions, he said, “It seemed appropriate to have a fundraiser for both counties to raise money for first responders, groups that never seem to have enough money.”

In search of a partner to help co-sponsor the event, Gillette said Boykins Volunteer Fire and Rescue was the first to step up to the plate.

“They really carried the load with a lot of things,” Gillette said. “The caterer, the bands, insurance, all those types of things. But the hunters, they sold the tickets.”

Eight hundred tickets were sold for the inaugural celebration, most sold well in advance of the actual event.

One of the highlights of the afternoon was the presentation of two bullet and stab-proof vests, one given to a K-9 unit from both the Southampton and Sussex Sheriff’s departments. The vests, valued at nearly $1,500 each, were purchased from the proceeds of the event’s ticket sales. Thesewere supplied by the Atlantic K-9 Vest Fund, a non-profit organization based in Newport News whose mission is to raise money to purchase such vests for law enforcement agencies across Virginia and the country.

Southampton County Sheriff Jack Stutts said, ”Those K-9 teams are so vulnerable when on a manhunt. Norfolk lost a dog earlier this year or last year on a building entry.”

Molly, the department’s bloodhound who received a vest, is used exclusively for tracking.

“Her first call out she found a missing child,” he said.

Molly typically gets called out every five to seven days.

“There are agencies that border us that don’t have a K-9 team and they’ll call us,” Stutts added. “Two fine organizations got together and did this for us. It’s just a very kind thing for them to do.”

Rocky, Sussex County’s yellow Labrador retriever, received the other vest.

In addition to the vesting ceremony, the day featured live music by Silver Street and The Hickory Knoll Band. Nixon’s Catering fed the large crowd, and approximately 15 different vendors were on hand. Several raffle prizes, from dog food to Garmin tracking systems, were given out as well.

Overall, organizers say they feel the event was a complete success.

“Conveying respect, education and preserving the heritage of hound hunting were our goals,” said Gillette. “It certainly exceeded our expectations.”