It all started with a girl, a dog, and a dream. Illini Service Dogs was founded in 2010 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A student at the time, Bridget Evans proposed the idea of having college students foster and train service dogs for people with physical disabilities. She formed a group of passionate, dedicated and motivated individuals who began the first program in the country to allow college students to train mobility service dogs.
Bridget was born with spina bifida and got her first puppy when she was 11 years old. It was love at first sight with her big black lab named Coal. She had been on several service dog waiting lists for years, most of which required a significant donation to receive a service dog. Bridget and her family decided to begin training Coal (or him training her) to be her service dog, and a successful team was created. Coal began going to high school with Bridget and provided her with independence, purpose, and passion. Bridget was so grateful to have Coal that she began training other service dogs for people with disabilities. By the time Bridget went to college, she had helped train over 20 service dogs. It's all thanks to Coal for inspiring her to start Illini Service Dogs. Coal passed away in 2013, but his legacy lives on in this organization and the service dog teams he helped to create!
A dedicated group of volunteers is the reason that Illini Service Dogs exist today. As a completely volunteer run organization, the Illini Service Dogs was formed by Bridget and a group of individuals with backgrounds in animal rescue, animal behavior, and non-profit work. Together, they continue to work tirelessly to educate, fundraise, and advocate for people with disabilities and service dogs. The Illini Service Dogs strives to train high quality service dogs and create a generation of individuals who are partners in disability rights.
We continue to run completely on donations and our dedicated volunteers who make it possible to provide our dogs to their partner free of cost.