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Atlanta Falcons player is tackling mental illness by offering veterans a new furry friend

The Hayden Hurst Family Foundation is helping veterans in Atlanta fight the stigma of mental health.

ATLANTA — An Atlanta Falcons player is tackling mental illness among veterans by offering a helping hand, or rather, a paw.

Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst donated $20,000 and sponsored a service dog to help military veterans in Atlanta struggling with their mental health. 

The Hayden Hurst Family Foundation surprised Top Dogg K9 Foundation with the grant to help with the costs of training, and in turn, help make sure that there are more furry friends available for the veterans who need them most. 

TDK9 is a nonprofit organization dedicated to pairing veterans with trained service dogs to help reduce the number of military families that are impacted by suicide due to mental illness each year.

Peanut, a very special dog, was originally sponsored by Hurst and is now known as the official Hayden Hurst Dog. 

The service dog will be named “Hayden” in honor of the athlete. 

The NFL star and mental health advocate met the service dog on the Falcons playing field Friday. Fans say they have similar heartwarming personalities.

Furry Hayden joins the list of highly trained service dogs that help veterans struggling with mental illness. He will be fully trained and be paired with a military veteran in need once he's done.

Hurst's passion to support those struggling with mental health challenges stem from his own. In February of last year, Hurst told his story about suicide.

He says his mission is to break the stigma behind mental health. The NFL star created the Hayden Hurst Foundation to raise awareness and to help children and adolescents by funding mental health services and programs

“The military is something that is at the top of our priority list,” said Hurst. 

To find out more about Hurst's work and donate to TDK9 visit their website.

“I want to let you guys know that we are going to be present in the Atlanta community at the Top Dogg and we are gonna give back in any way that we possibly can,” said Hurst.

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