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Graham and Kyrié Bloem of Shelter to Soldier adopt its future dog in training, Kiki, in honor of Holli Lienau, who will see the journey of Kiki being paired with a combat veteran. Photo by Christina Macone-Greene.
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Shelter to Soldier thanks sponsors at second annual soiree

RANCHO SANTA FE — Some extraordinary dogs received spotlight attention at the second annual Red Star Sponsor Thank You Soirée! hosted by Rancho Santa Fe’s “Holli”day…Anyday!. The March 16 private event was dedicated to thanking Shelter to Soldier’s Red Star Sponsors who bigheartedly support the nonprofit’s mission of saving two lives at a time.

What that means is Shelter to Soldier, headquartered in Oceanside, adopts shelter dogs with the goal of training them as service dogs for a variety of tasks to assist post 9/11 combat veterans.

At the soiree, some of the Red Star Sponsors had the opportunity to meet the dogs they were sponsoring.

“Our Red Star Sponsors are those who have donated $15,000 or more to be able to sponsor a dog and veteran through the program or that have been community sponsors for a period of time that have shown an extreme amount of generosity and time,” said Graham Bloem, co-Founder of Shelter to Soldier. “The goal of this evening is to be able to thank all of them.”

Graham also pointed out how the soiree is an excellent event for sponsors to mingle and to become acquainted with fellow likeminded supporters who love helping homeless dogs and love supporting veterans.

“There’s a nice level of connection with our Red Star Sponsors because they get to stay fluid through the process, so there’s that gratitude that trickles down amongst the entire team or an individual with their friends and family,” he said. “And we can’t thank Holli Lienau of “Holliday…Anyday! enough for hosting this event a second year in a row.”

Graham thanked his wife, Kyrié, the co-founder of Shelter to Soldier and organizer of the entire event. She shared that the time of adoption to the graduation of their dogs can be up to 18 months.

“This soiree is a nice opportunity to check back in with our sponsors and reiterate our gratitude for them,” she said. “Our mission is impossible without them — they are the ones who are saving lives two at a time — they are helping us to rescue dogs from shelters and then match them with veterans.”

To date, 23 teams have graduated from the program.   

Another person Shelter to Soldier paid tribute to on this day was Lienau.

According to Graham, for years, Lienau has been a monthly contributor to the nonprofit. Also, “Holli”day…Anyday! hosts the annual Red Star Sponsor Thank You Soirée! at her Rancho Santa Fe estate and hosted other fundraisers for Shelter to Soldier.

Lienau is not only giving directly but spreading the mission of the nonprofit.

“We felt through Holli’s giving, partnership and how much she deeply cares about the organization, we wanted to give her something that feels like she’s making a direct impact not just to our mission, but with a dog and a veteran specifically,” Graham said. “We made the move to have that sponsorship go directly towards Kiki, a rescue from Mexico who is a one-year-old chocolate Labrador/pit bull mix.”

According to Kyrié, Kiki was in the care of Labs and More Rescue after her rescue.

“Kiki is amazing,” she said. “She’s good with other dogs, good with kids and Kiki has a bright future with our program.”

Lienau said the thoughtfulness of Shelter to Soldier touched her when learning that Kiki was adopted in her name. However, what moves her even more are the type of dogs in the program.

“They are not buying from a breeder or a breeder donating them,” she said. “This is a dog that truly needs a home — we will do whatever we can to support Shelter to Soldier in saving two lives at a time.”

To learn more about Shelter to Soldier, sponsorship opportunities and their upcoming gala, visit