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‘I just love seeing the support:’ How one deputy and a candle maker came together to raise awareness, funds for K-9 foundation
k9 candles
Proceeds from each K-9 candle purchase will be donated to the Georgia Police K9 Foundation.

When Dep. 1st Class Steven Challinger reached out to the owner of Chattahoochee Candles Jessica Leete about a K-9-inspired candle, he thought it would “take several months” to implement.

But, within 24 hours, Leete sent him photos of a possible product and the two entered a partnership that would encourage other K-9 handlers in Georgia to get involved in the project.

Challinger, who works with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, is the handler of Dep. K-9 Flash, a 2-year-old bloodhound.

Challinger said he approached Leete with the idea to do a K-9 Flash-inspired candle to help raise awareness for the Georgia Police K9 Foundation, a nonprofit organization that protects and serves “active and retired law enforcement K-9s throughout Georgia by providing equipment, training and care.”

He has been on the board of the organization since January, and he said that he tries to find unique ways to raise awareness for the group.

According to Challinger and Leete, the Georgia Police K9 Foundation provides necessary equipment for working K-9s such as heat sensors for cars and ballistic vests, as well as providing support and care for retired K-9s.

Leete said proceeds from each K-9 candle purchase will be donated to the Georgia Police K9 Foundation.

“I’m absolutely passionate about this now,” Leete said. “But I didn’t know anything about [the Georgia Police K9 Foundation] before [Challinger] came to me, so learning about it is very interesting.”

“And talking to [Challinger] on top of that, you can see how passionate he is about it, too, and how proud he is of the work he does with his dog,” she said.

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k9 candles
Dep. 1st Class Steven Challinger has been working with K-9 Flash for a year doing scent work and tracking for the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office. Photo by Amy Jo Photography.

Challinger and Dep. K-9 Flash have been working together for a year, and he said they do “110% of everything together.”

“Working with K-9 Flash is great because it’s like going to work with your best friend,” Challinger said. “We do everything together. Absolutely everything. I even put his name on reports because he’s an officer, too.”

“And being a K-9 officer is awesome,” he said. “I get to come to work each day and just play with a dog. It’s the best job ever.”

As Challinger began working with Dep. K-9 Flash, he realized how much the community cares about animals, especially K-9s.

“I just love seeing the support,” Challinger said. “It’s really not for me or anything, it’s more for [Flash], but the same people that follow him [on Instagram] are the same ones that, if he needed something, they’ll take care of it. It’s just a big support system for any of these K-9s.”

“It really does break the stigma of what people think patrol dogs or what people think K-9s are,” he said. “They’re just big, goofy dogs at the end of the day.”

Two such “big, goofy dogs” are currently featured on Leete’s site, FCSO’s Flash and K-9 Smokey from the Statesboro Police Department.

Within the first day of sales, Leete said that the K-9 Flash candles were very popular.

“We definitely started off with a bang,” Leete said. “The first day, I think we had 10-15 orders just for those candles, which was so great.”

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k9 candles
Chattahoochee Candles is a Dawson County-located business owned by Jessica Leete. Photo courtesy Chattahoochee Candles.

Leete said that she hopes to show off a new K-9 each month and that she is looking forward to future partnerships with other police departments and sheriff’s offices around Georgia.

Challinger concurred, stating that he’s looking forward to seeing Leete’s line of K-9 candles grow.

“I love how Jessica just really hit the ground running with this project,” Challinger said. “She still wants to donate and be a part of this foundation and everything that we have to give to the communities. I’m very pleased to know her, and I couldn’t have done it without her at all.”

Both Challinger and Leete explained that the Georgia Police K9 Foundation will be having an event in June called ‘An Evening for the K9s 2022.’

Leete said that it was “like a red carpet for the K-9s” where supporters can enjoy food and drinks, participate in raffles and a silent auction and, of course, meet K9s from around the state.

The event will be held in Statesboro on June 4, and Challinger said that he, K-9 Flash, and Flash’s “best bud” K-9 Smokey will be in attendance.

Leete’s candles can be found at www.chattahoocheecandles.com, or on Instagram @chattahoochee_candles.

K-9 Flash can be found on Instagram @fcsok9flash.

For more information about the Georgia Police K9 Foundation, visit www.gapolicek9foundation.org