By Tony Stabile
NEW YORK — Matt Martin continues to make a difference, though this time it’s off the ice. Through his Matt Martin Foundation, with the help of the American Humane Society and Tito’s Vodka, Martin provided Retired US Army Staff Sargent Christopher Ellis and his family with a service dog in a presentation at the NHL Store in New York City on Monday
Under this new program, the Ellis family received the dog free of charge. Other programs require Veterans to spend tens of thousands of dollars in order to train and care for the dogs and could wait years to get one. The AHS and Martin working together were able to pair Ellis up with the 1 ½ year old Lex in just about 8 months. The dogs that enter this program would have been euthanized under normal circumstances, so the results give both the dog and their owner a new lease on life.
“They (AHS) asked me to do a Public Service Announcement, and I did. Then I kinda got to know them more and what their mission was.” Martin said when asked how he became involved with this project. “This is a completely new program for them [AHS], they started it, and we wanted to be a part of it, and it’s something we’ll probably continue to be a part of.”
Before the presentation, Martin and girlfriend Sydney Esiason took the Ellis family (Christopher, his wife Kerry and their daughter Breelyn) to lunch at the New York Yankees Steakhouse. There, Martin and Esiason got to spend some quality time and got a better understanding of the day to day struggles Staff Sargent Ellis deals with having PTSD. Having Lex around has already had a positive effect on Ellis who told Martin that he hopes to be able to attend sporting events with his daughter which up until now has been a real problem.
Having PTSD is difficult enough; being in New York City has to be a nightmare. Ellis and his family attended this press conference to encourage more donations so other Veterans could benefit the same way Lex and Staff Sargent Ellis have. “This is usually something we’d do behind the scenes, but we want people to see that is a great cause and we want people to see first hand” said Martin.
Not only did the family get Lex, they also received a few other gifts as well. The NYPD hockey team stopped by the store and presented the family with shirts, hats and for Birthday girl Breelyn, her very own jersey. Then Martin presented Ellis with a brand new #15 Maple Leafs jersey, flowers for Mrs. Ellis and a thousand dollar shopping spree for Breelyn.
Ellis revealed that this trip was a dream come true for 9-year-old Breelyn, hopefully it will be something that changes the lives of the Ellis family forever.