Our MissionImprove the quality of life for Veterans living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Military Sexual Trauma (MST) 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 immersion model ensures that our dogs are continuously in a social setting, being exposed to as many different aspects of life as possible. We also look for opportunities for our dogs to give back throughout their two year training period by participating in numerous events that support CTM Veterans and the larger Veteran community.
Continuing the Mission is operated by a team of dedicated volunteers who make our partnership with a purpose successful.
Suzy Lutz, CTM Executive Director
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 over 30 years of training dogs in obedience, agility, and pet therapy. She has studied under several prominent trainers in the dog training community and has extensive experience in the development of Assistance Dogs.
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 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.
Cortney Owens, CTM Director of Assistance Dog Training
Cortney is an experienced dog trainer with 16 years of Retriever Training experience, 6 years of Detection Training experience, and 4 years of Service Dog/Emotional Support Dog Training experience. Cortney was certified through the VA Emotional Support & Service Dog program in Santa Rosa, CA with Canine Companions for Independence, a program that she in turn participated in to help certify other individuals.
Cortney developed an award winning Service Dog & Emotional Support Dog Training plan for the VA, to include advanced training techniques in addition to 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 Assistance Dogs and positively impacting lives through dogs, stemming from her own personal experience with Labrador Retrievers. Her extensive training and experience allows her to produce sound working companions for Veterans and others in need.
Cortney provides training instruction for CTM, conducts annual recertification, and manages the daily health and exercise requirements for CTM Assistance Dogs. She leads and supports CTM’s Volunteer Dog Fosters and Puppy Raisers and embraces the opportunity to expand training groups. Cortney has extended her training services to the Davidson, NC community in her personal endeavors through Anchors Away Canine Academy, LLC.
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, President of the Board
Maddie is a Human Resources professional with a Master’s degree in Industrial & Organizational Psychology who relocated to NC in late 2017 from IL where she grew up. She is the daughter of a US Army Veteran who served 26 years and accrued over 5 years of time deployed overseas.
Maddie connected with CTM in 2018 first as a volunteer to support the Veteran community. She enjoys managing the quarterly newsletter as well as supporting the organization’s communication efforts. Maddie is passionate about dogs and the positive impact they have on people in all walks of life.
Felix Blumhardt, Member of the Board
Felix is Veteran who served in the Army as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She currently works as a therapist in Raleigh.
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 corralling their two young labs, Poncho and Po.
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 38 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 Puppy Raiser and since has taken the lead on CTM’s fundraising initiatives.
Heidi Swygard, Member of the Board
Heidi moved to Chapel Hill, NC in 1998 to begin her Infectious Diseases fellowship at UNC Chapel Hill and stayed on faculty until June 2020 when she transitioned to work in the pharmaceutical industry.
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.