2023 Jack Warnock and National Board of Directors Regional Volunteer Award Winners

2023 Jack Warnock and National Board of Directors Regional Volunteer Award Winners

Nearly 25 years ago, our national board of directors established the Canine Companions Jack Warnock Award, named after longtime volunteer and graduate Jack Warnock. 

This annual, prestigious award acknowledges outstanding volunteerism on a national level, with one volunteer winning from one of our six regions. We’re pleased to recognize Northeast Region volunteer, Jane Nagy, from New Jersey, as the 2023 Jack Warnock Award recipient. 

We are grateful for the dedication and support of all of our volunteers and congratulate Jane and our 2023 regional winners on their outstanding volunteerism in support of our mission. Read more about Jane and our five regional winners below. 

A smiling woman posing with a dog in a service vest

Northeast Region – Jane Nagy – 2023 Jack Warnock Award Winner

Jane Nagy of Phillipsburg, New Jersey, joined Canine Companions 30 years ago, and she’s an exemplary volunteer across our organization. Not only has she raised 27 puppies (and working on puppy number 28), but she also founded two volunteer chapters and recruited many other dedicated volunteers to our mission. Jane also volunteers as a Canine Companions therapy dog evaluator and handler.

“I started raising Canine Companions future service dogs to change someone’s life by making living with a disability easier,” says Jane. “Little did I know how much my life and those around me would also be changed.”

Jane has been awarded the 2023 Canine Companions Jack Warnock Award, the highest honor we bestow for outstanding volunteerism.

“Many years ago, someone gave me a calendar of Canine Companions service dog teams with client profiles in it,” she says. “The stories really impacted me and made me realize how lucky I was.”

Before retiring, Jane was a special education teacher in New Jersey and many of her future service dogs came to school with her, providing motivation and support to her students. Her room became extra special and inviting because all the students wanted to visit the special pup! Students learned service dog etiquette, while the puppies learned how to behave in a work environment.

“I feel lucky to be a volunteer puppy raiser,” says Jane. “Each puppy is unique and steals your heart. They are like having built-in sunshine and show us the good in people!”

In addition to her achievements as a volunteer puppy raiser, Jane is a founder of the Lehigh Valley and New Jersey Volunteer Chapters. She has mentored dozens of volunteers and organizes and teaches bi-weekly puppy classes. Jane generously funded the Northeast Region Therapy Dog Program, and she’s a certified Canine Companions volunteer therapy dog evaluator. Additionally, she’s the driving force who initiated the partnership with the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) to make Canine Companions their New Jersey Special State Project, resulting in an extraordinary $200,000 donation.

“I am incredibly humbled to receive this award,” Jane says. “I need to recognize the volunteer chapters – those are the people who helped me get here.”

We congratulate Jane for her outstanding volunteer achievements, and we’re honored to have her supporting our vital cause.

A smiling woman posing with a dog in a service vest

North Central Region – Colleen Pars

Colleen Pars is no stranger to volunteering. Her hard work and dedication to Canine Companions is why she’s been named winner of the 2023 North Central Regional Volunteer award. There are many ways to volunteer, and each is necessary to help propel our mission forward.

Colleen and her husband, Eli, have been generous supporters of Canine Companions for more than 20 years, doing their part to donate and raise puppies. Her contribution is making a difference across the entire organization.

This past year, Colleen dedicated a tremendous amount of time and energy into auditing our internal internet system. The new and improved version, which she created from scratch, includes landing pages for each department and region. In addition to her technical skills, Colleen used her art background to create new website graphics.

This project was a huge undertaking, but Colleen took it in stride, using her passion and familiarity with the mission to truly excel in the task at hand. Colleen brought industry best practices to our technology team and partnered it with her in-depth knowledge of our organization.

It takes exceptional people to help Canine Companions provide exceptional services. We want to personally thank Colleen for lending her professionalism to us at no cost – with a smile on her face all the while.

Northwest Region – Pam Durkin

Pam Durkin became involved with Canine Companions in 2015, and she quickly became integral to our mission in her local community and in our East Bay Volunteer Chapter in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pam has held leadership positions in the chapter for seven years, leading fundraising and events in the area.

She’s been leading the volunteer committee for DogFest Bay Area for the past six years, helping raise a total of nearly $1 million for Canine Companions!

Pam currently serves as the president of our local East Bay Volunteer Chapter, providing support to volunteers and graduates, while leading awareness and fundraising efforts in the area. If that wasn’t enough, Pam is a volunteer co-breeder caretaker for female breeder Eclipse, as well as a volunteer therapy dog handler for Therapy Dog Livingston, with whom she makes regular visits to the Kaiser Permanente East Bay hospital facilities and Veterans Homes in the East Bay. She even picks up puppy crates from the Hayward Executive Airport after one of our regular volunteer private pilots returns from transporting puppies to their new puppy raisers. Not only is Pam a committed volunteer, but she’s also a long-time donor and Heritage Society member.

Pam commits 100% to everything she does, and her energy is contagious. Not only is she an incredible leader; everyone would also agree she’s so much fun to work with! We can’t thank her enough for all she does, and we’re honored to name her as Northwest Region’s 2023 Regional Volunteer Award Winner.

South Central Region – Mary Patterson

The South Central Region is proud to recognize our 2023 Regional Volunteer Award Winner Mary Patterson of the Gulf Coast Volunteer Chapter in Houston, Texas. Mary was nominated by our fellow volunteers and was selected by our regional board of directors, based on her practice of Canine Companions core values and her exceptional dedication to our mission, our community and the Canine Companions family.

Mary has been a volunteer with Canine Companions for five years. In that time, she has raised four puppies and became an active leader of the Gulf Coast Volunteer Chapter, in which she led lunch and learns, participated in various outreach events, as well as conducted presentations across her community to build awareness and raise funds for Canine Companions.

In addition to raising puppies herself, she helped launch a new college puppy raising program at Rice University, and she currently serves as puppy raiser liaison for the volunteer chapter. She actively recruits and conducts home visits for prospective puppy raisers; puppy sits for her fellow volunteers; helps manage the puppy sitting program; and mentors and coaches local puppy raisers in the community.

The list of ways Mary has dedicated her heart to Canine Companions could go on and on, and we’re extremely grateful to have her as a leader in our volunteer community.

Southeast Region – Marian Scopa

Marian Scopa first started her journey with Canine Companions 13 years ago when she met our former puppy raiser. At the time, she had recently retired, and she knew she wanted to use her time purposefully and make an impact. The former puppy raiser encouraged her to read Dean Koontz’s novel, “A Big Little Life,” and after she read it, Marian was convinced that Canine Companions was the nonprofit she wanted to support.

Marian started volunteering to raise puppies for us (now eagerly awaiting her ninth puppy), and she immediately joined the Atlanta Volunteer Chapter, in which she served as vice president and president for a number of years.

Marian works tirelessly to promote and advance the mission of Canine Companions, both locally and regionally. The contribution she makes, she makes for the greater good of the organization. Marian contributes to a sense of belonging, community and commitment among volunteers within the Atlanta Chapter, and she helps raise awareness of our mission across the region.

Marian leads by example. She’s the embodiment of the chapter’s “Welcome Waggin’,” as she’s the first person to make contact and welcome a new puppy raiser, graduate or volunteer. She’s the first person to offer support and encouragement when a puppy raiser encounters issues with a new pup or if a graduate needs assistance. And, Marian is the last person to pack up and leave an event, presentation or fundraiser.

On a regional and national level, Marian attends leadership meetings to learn how she can contribute even further to our mission and raise awareness, funds and involvement. Finally, Marian is an outstanding volunteer who exemplifies the spirit of Canine Companions and contributes positively to improving the independence and lives of individuals with disabilities.

We thank Marian for her efforts and contributions to our organization and mission!

Southwest Region – Vanessa Graziano

Vanessa Graziano is truly an exceptional Canine Companions volunteer, one who wholeheartedly believes in and supports the mission of the organization. She has volunteered for the Southwest Region for 20 years.

Vanessa and her husband, Kevin O’Grady, have raised 10 puppies for Canine Companions, starting in 2003. When their careers and family obligations expanded to preclude puppy raising, they transitioned to shorter-term dog sitting for countless puppies, graduate dogs and retired dogs. 

Over the years, Vanessa has represented Canine Companions at many events: presentations at schools and businesses; DogFest, gift wrap booths and information booths; and our annual fundraisers in Vail, Colorado.

Vanessa’s most recent volunteer efforts have been devoted to the Colorado Barn Party, an annual event started by Dr. Susan Ryan in 2016. Vanessa has worked on the event for the past five years, helping to make the event bigger and better each time. Her organizational skills are exceptional. Vanessa is involved from start to finish, using her legendary spreadsheets to help coordinate all aspects of auction items and experiences, then, employs her personal warmth to ensure everyone involved feels appreciated as they help. With her leadership, the annual event has raised over $600,000. 

Dr. Ryan shared this about Vanessa: “Vanessa never seeks the limelight. We all know it takes a village, and Vanessa is the mayor of the village. And, as a true Italian, she makes sure everyone is well-fed and feels loved.”

The Southwest Region is fortunate to have such an inspirational volunteer. We thank Vanessa for all that she does to advance our mission.