Our MissionImprove the quality of life for Veterans living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and their families by providing them with uniquely trained canine partners.
Learn MoreAbout Our Story
While participating in a training class with one of her own dogs, Suzy Lutz met a young woman with a black lab puppy. Early on, the young woman was quiet and kept to herself, but as the weeks progressed, she started to interact and smile more, and Suzy watched her blossom into a vibrant woman full of life. The young woman was usually accompanied by her parents, who shared with Suzy that their daughter was a Gold Star Family member and that the puppy was a gift from them to help her grieve and move forward with her life.
Suzy was so moved by the change in this young woman, brought about by a chubby little black lab puppy, that she wanted to find opportunities herself to change lives with a dog. As her 50th birthday approached, she yearned for an opportunity to add significance to her life and then she saw the path. As her husband Robert was on his final deployment in Iraq, she began the journey and the paperwork to create Continuing the Mission.
Who We Are
Established in March of 2016, Continuing the Mission (CTM) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing fully trained assistance dogs at no cost to qualifying Veterans. We have established a birth-to-placement model that immerses our dogs in continuous social and functional activities starting at 8-10 weeks of age.
Our unique immersion model ensures that our dogs are continuously in a social setting. Additionally, we look for opportunities for our dogs to give back throughout their two year training period. Our dogs participate in numerous events that support CTM Veterans and the larger Veteran community.
Our Executive Director, Suzy Lutz
Suzy has been a military spouse for 30 years. She graduated from Florida State University with a B.S. in Accounting and spent 6 years as an accountant for the Department of Defense.
Suzy has trained dogs in obedience and agility for 28 years. She has qualified for the AKC National Agility Championships and has placed as high as third in the NADAC National Agility Championships.
Suzy and her husband Robert have two sons and reside in Davidson, NC where they are active in the Davidson College community. Suzy and Robert founded CTM in 2016 in order to address the issue of Veteran suicide. Her dedication to CTM’s mission and leadership of the organization’s operations is driven by her passion for dogs and Veterans.
Continuing the Mission is operated by a team of dedicated volunteers who make our partnership with a purpose successful.
Cortney Owens, Assistance Dog Consultant and Trainer
Cortney has over 16 years of experience in dog training to include 16 years of Retriever Training experience, 6 years of Detection Training experience, and 4 years of Service Dog/Emotional Support Dog Training experience. In addition, she traveled to Santa Rosa, CA - Canine Companions For Independence to participate & conduct VA Emotional Support & Service Dog Certifications, a certification which she earned in 2016.
Cortney has received several awards for her development of a VA Service Dog & Emotional Support Dog Training plan, in addition to developing training techniques and as well as the procurement of all dogs for the program. Cortney is continuously striving to improve her knowledge and training techniques and has attended the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans Conference in 2018 and 2019. Cortney has also successfully completed the Mental Health First Aid certification.
Cortney is driven by her passion for training Service Dogs and impacting lives through dogs, which stems from her personal experience with Labrador Retrievers. Her extensive training and experience allows her to produce sound working companions for Veterans and others in need. Additionally, she provides training instruction for CTM volunteer Dog Fosters and Puppy Raisers, the Davidson community, and in the prison environment through CTM’s partnership with New Leash on Life.
She teams with volunteer partners who serve as canine fosters, and embraces the opportunity to expand training groups. Cortney is also responsible for managing the daily health and exercise requirements for CTM dogs, as well as, meeting training requirements for the Veteran’s Administration.
Felix Blumhardt, President
Felix served as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the US Army, where she worked with Veterans living with Post Traumatic Stress and their families. As a member of a small counseling group in Raleigh, NC, Felix continues to specialize in trauma, working with Veterans and civilians living with PTSD and other mood disorders.
As one of CTM’s founding members, Felix was drawn to CTM by the organization’s focus on Veterans, connection with dogs, and servant-based mission. Felix has been the sister and mother to numerous four-legged, furry family members, and she and her family currently enjoy catering to their yellow Lab, Bear.
Robert Lutz, Medical Director & Member of the Board
Robert retired from the US Army in 2017 after a 30-year career. He received his medical degree from the Uniformed Services University in 1993 and earned a board certification in Emergency Medicine in 1998. With multiple combat deployments to include service in Iraq and Afghanistan, Robert has first hand experience caring for patients with post-traumatic stress.
In 2015-2016 he worked closely with Suzy Lutz to develop the CTM service dog eligibility criteria and currently serves as the Medical Director for CTM in addition to his position on the Board. After retiring from the Army, Robert completed a fellowship in sports medicine at Duke University and currently serves as the Team Physician for the Davidson College athletes.
Maddie Bevitt, Member of the Board
Maddie earned her BS in Human Resources from Illinois State College and after the first 10 years in her HR career relocated to Chapel Hill, NC in 2017. She is the daughter of a US Army Veteran who served 26 years and accrued over 5 years worth of time deployed overseas.
Maddie connected with CTM in 2018 to give back to the Veteran community. She is a newly appointed member of the CTM Board and enjoys managing the quarterly newsletter as well as supporting the organization’s communication and branding efforts. She is currently working toward her MS in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and enjoys spending her free time with her two senior rescue dogs.
Jeff Hughes, Member of the Board
Jeff moved from Yardley, PA where he was born and raised, to NC to attend UNC Charlotte where he earned a BS in Criminal Justice. He is retired from a career in orthopedic and surgical equipment sales that included serving as partner, owner, and founder of South Tech Orthopedic in Raleigh, NC. Prior to his career in orthopedic and surgical equipment sales, Jeff was a police officer in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.
Jeff and his wife Karen have been married for 37 years and have two children. He is an ACE accredited personal trainer and in his free time enjoys golfing, traveling, Stocks and Futures trading, reading, and working out. Jeff connected with CTM in early 2019 to volunteer as a Foster and has become more involved in the operations of the organization as a newly appointed member of the CTM Board.
Denise Kniager, Member of the Board
Denise joined the CTM Board in 2018 and serves as the Board’s Secretary. Prior to co-launching a small business in 2000 and coming aboard full-time a few years later, Denise spent the majority of her career in leadership roles with FORTUNE 500 companies. Denise and her husband support CTM’s fundraising initiatives and are instrumental in organizing and running the annual Paws and Putts golf event. They also are long-time dog owners and serve as Fosters for CTM as needed.
Originally from New England, Denise now calls Southern Pines, NC home. Denise loves to cook for friends and family, try new recipes, and explore local restaurants. She also enjoys attending PGA and LPGA tour events throughout the US.
Heidi Swygard, Member of the Board
Heidi moved to Chapel Hill, NC in 1998 to begin her Infectious Diseases fellowship at UNC Chapel Hill. She stayed on as faculty at UNC where she works primarily in Public Health, HIV, and viral hepatitis. She is the Viral Hepatitis Medical Director for the state of NC and is active in her practice seeing patients at UNC.
Heidi got her start with CTM in 2017 with her two children as a family service project to foster dogs for the organization. While their family didn’t already have dog training experience, they learned quickly from Suzy and have fostered several dogs for CTM. Heidi joined the CTM Board in 2018 to expand her involvement in the organization after seeing the powerful impact CTM dogs have on the lives of Veterans.
John Woods, Member of the Board
John is retired from a 41 year banking career focused on commercial lending to small businesses and non-profit organizations and 22 years of elected service. He earned his BS from Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC and his MBA from the University of South Carolina. John served in the Advanced ROTC in college and as First Lieutenant in the US Army Adjutant General’s Corps from 1971-1973.
Following his elected service as the Davidson Town Commissioner from 1997-2007, Mayor Pro Tem from 2001-2007, and Mayor from 2007-2017, John remains active in the Davidson, NC community by serving on a board of directors for several non-profit organizations. John was appointed to the CTM Board in 2019 to support CTM from a finance and sustainability focus.
John and his wife, Diana, have extensive experience in dog training and sporting with Flat Coated Retrievers. They have two children and two grandchildren. John is an avid outdoorsman and bird hunter.