SOUTH PLAINFIELD - The South Plainfield Elks presented 17-year-old Olivia Olano with a $500 check on Dec. 13 to donate to K9s for Warriors, an organization that pairs disabled veterans with a trained rescue dog for emotional support. About a year ago Olano started an all natural dog treat business called Noki Treats, donating all the proceeds to K9s for Warriors. Olano has been selling the treats at vendor fairs and events as well as through Instagram and via email, and business is booming.
“We’re very happy that we were able to help Olivia,” said Sharon Reuter, former Elks Youth Activities Chairman. “And we’re really proud of a young woman who takes the initiative to do something good in the world.”
“K9s for Warriors is a wonderful cause,” Olano said. “They train dogs to be helpful to veterans who may have PTSD or just need some extra assistance. What better than a dog to help, man’s best friend!”
K9s for Warriors is a nonprofit organization based near Gainesville, Florida, that trains rescue dogs to help post 9-11 disabled veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, and many other psychological issues associated with military service. The organization helps veterans return to civilian life with dignity and independence. As the nation’s largest veteran service organization to provide highly skilled service dogs, their number one objective is to prevent suicide attempts.
Reuter says that although she and her husband Bill moved out of South Plainfield, their heart remains with South Plainfield residents and with the Elks. When she heard about Olano selling dog treats and donating to K9s for Warriors, she knew just who to approach for help.
“I brought the request to an Elks meeting and asked the Veterans Service Committee,” Reuter said. “Margaret Williams, who is the co-chairman, along with Brian Csobar, who is the chairman, both readily agreed to make a donation to Olivia because it’s just fantastic to see a young person have this initiative, not only to help our service people. It’s also heartwarming when someone does something with animals.”
The Olano family first found out about K9s for Warriors while visiting family in Florida.
“My goal is to go to the main base, where they train the dogs in Florida, and shadow one of the trainers,” Olano added. “I’m a big animal lover. I’m considering going into this field or nursing as a career because I love to help people.”
About 90% of the K9 for Warriors service dogs come from shelters or are owner-surrendered. The program gives the dogs purpose. K9 for Warriors says on its website, “With each graduate pair, we save two lives; we rescue the dog, and the dog rescues the warrior.”
“Our goal is to shadow one of the trainers at K9s for Warriors in Florida,” said Tree Olano, Olivia’s mother. “They have a whole campus called Gold’s Campus. It’s a huge facility, and they have the dogs there, and they partner them with a veteran, and they train together. Then weeks later, they go home with a veteran. We want to be able to present a good sized check to them when we visit.”
Olano’s business, Noki All Natural Dog Treats, is steadily growing as word has spread about the treats. The name is a combination of the names of Olano’s favorite pooches, her dog “Nova,” an English Cream Retriever, and “Tiki,” her neighbor’s yellow lab that she often cares for.
“I’m just so touched and excited about this opportunity that she’s doing,” Olivia Olano’s mother, Tree Olano said. “I really am proud of her. She has a really good heart.”
Tree Olano helped her daughter find just the right blend of ingredients for the treats and the two continue to work together to bake them.
“This all started on a snowy day, and I am an avid baker so as soon as a snowflake comes, I’m in the kitchen baking,” Tree Olano said. “Since Olivia is a huge dog lover, she thought it would be a good idea to bake something for Nova.”
“Nova, my dog, loves to sit in the kitchen with my mom when she bakes,” said Olivia Olano. “I was there to that day, and I said that I feel like Nova should have his own treat. We said let’s do it! My dog has always loved peanut butter, and we know that pumpkin is really good for dogs, so we worked on a recipe.”
“We did a little research, and had a couple trial and errors until we got a good dough consistency,” said Tree Olano. “Olivia really worked with me, and we ended up coming with this recipe that’s all natural. And dogs absolutely love them!”
With organic eggs, whole wheat flour, pumpkin or peanut butter and no added sugar, the treats are packed with nutritious ingredients.
A family friend helped with business cards and packaging and Olivia Olano has brought her treats to various fairs and events in South Plainfield to sell for $5 a bag.
“My mom and I spend hours baking them,” said Olivia Olano. “I’m thankful that South Plainfield has given me a lot of opportunities to sell the treats. We are also on Instagram."
Olivia Olano says her business has brought her so much joy, not only being able to provide healthy, tasty treats for her canine friends and helping veterans, but in the time she spends with her mother.
“Definitely making the treats with my mom is the best part,” said Olivia Olano. “We get some good quality time. And also giving back to the veterans is a cause I am very passionate about.”
“To have a teenage daughter and to find something that you can talk about and have time to do together is wonderful,” said Tree Olano. “We’re having a lot of fun. She feels lot of gratitude. She feels so good about it.”
Tree Olano says her daughter even chose to donate the money that would have gone to a Sweet Sixteen party to K9s for Warriors. They are looking forward to going to Florida in February to present the organization with a check.
“I’m so grateful for the Elks and all of South Plainfield for being so supportive of Noki Treats and our cause!” Olivia Olano said.
Noki Treats can be found on Instagram at @noki.treats19. They can also be purchased by emailing, firstname.lastname@example.org. Local home delivery is available or purchases can be picked up at the Senior Center. For more information about K9s for Warriors, go to www.k9sforwarriors.org.