The ASEA Advancing Life Foundation has funded the training of a third electronics storage detection (ESD) law enforcement dog for Operation Underground Railroad. Once trained, this dog will be able to locate hidden electronic devices as small as thumb drives in the investigative work of bringing child sex traffickers to justice.
The dog’s name is Champ, and his training is made possible by a single donation from ASEA Triple Diamond Executive Sue Brenchley. The heartfelt contribution is in honor of Sue’s son, Sean Neal Brenchley, who ended his life in August of 2018.
A Struggle Larger Than Strength Alone
Sean had battled depression for most of his life, something many who were associated with him did not realize. Most knew him best as an outdoors enthusiast with a kind heart.
“Sean was one of the strongest people I know,” Sue shared. “He never let others know about the struggle.”
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, averaging 129 lives lost each day, with an estimated 1.4 million attempts per year.1 While coping skills for dealing with depression and related mental illnesses take a different course for each individual, the need for awareness is universal. Preventing a potential suicide can begin with something as simple as asking someone if they’re OK.
Awareness through a Life Honored
As Sue contemplated ways to both honor Sean and help spread awareness about mental illness, she had a moment of clarity at Envision Conference in January 2019. “They were updating us about the dogs the Advancing Life Foundation is training,” Sue explained. “I recalled that my son’s connection with a sweet dog was one of the greatest factors that kept him alive a little longer.”
The correlation was clear. “Whether it’s sex trafficking, drug addiction, depression, or any other way a human being can suffer, those of us who can help, need to help,” she said. “And Sean was always fighting for the underdog.” Funding the training of a dog to help people who cannot help themselves was the right fit.
Aiming to time the dog’s training with Sean’s birthday in February, Sue immediately spoke with Advancing Life Foundation Chair KimMarie Larsen about getting the ball rolling. Kim explained that the process for securing a dog is multifaceted and can take up to a year, and that such a tight timeline wouldn’t likely be possible. Still, she and Sue began the process. Then, miraculously, on her own birthday in April, Sue received the photo of the dog to be trained and all the details about him. “I tried to give it to Sean for his birthday, but he gave it to me for mine,” she beamed.
The Gift in a Name
Taking seriously the privilege of naming the dog, Sue put sincere thought and prayer into the matter. She chose Gracious Champion, Champ for short—a name not only appropriate for his job of fighting for a cause on behalf of others, but one that echoes the meaning of Sean’s full name. Sean means gracious gift from God; Neal means champion.
Champ’s training began in April 2019 and will be completed around the one-year anniversary of Sean’s death. He will then begin work in St. Louis at the US Federal Probation Department, adding specialized skills to greatly help local efforts to alleviate suffering.
As Champ fulfills his mission, the meaning of Sean’s legacy deepens. “Everything is going to work for a bigger purpose,” Sue concluded. “This dog is a gift from God who will fight for this cause on behalf of those who cannot fight for themselves.”
“I tried to give it to Sean for his birthday, but he gave it to me for mine.”
Anyone can help prevent a potential suicide. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, available 24 hours every day. Whether you’re the one in crisis or you know someone who needs support, you’ll be connected with someone who can help. The call is anonymous.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 2017