OSCEOLA COUNTY — Helping safeguard the four-legged officers who protect area communities is the latest fundraising effort of the Riley MacKenzie Fund.

The nonprofit is attempting to raise money to be able to purchase safety equipment for the K-9 unit dogs of the Osceola and Mecosta County sheriff’s offices.

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office K-9s, Ryker and Chase, are in need of Kevlar bulletproof vests, said Debbie Szot, president and founder of the Riley MacKenzie Fund.

The Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office K-9, Callahan, already has a vest, but his handler would like a “No K-9 Left Behind” system for his vehicle. The system works to prevent heat stroke in K-9s, monitoring the temperature in a police vehicle and automatically opening the door in case of an emergency.

“Our organization just feels like there are things our counties sometimes just can’t afford,” Szot said. “We have pets and therapy dogs and everyone who supports the Riley MacKenzie Fund knows how important animals are. The board felt police dogs should be protected and safe, just like their handlers are.”

The topic came to the attention of the nonprofit after a K-9 dog was killed in the line of duty in January in Ohio, Szot said.

The vests will cost $1,000 each and the vehicle system has a price tag of $1,200. If enough money is raised, vehicle systems can be purchased for Osceola County as well, she added.

“If we get extra we can put that toward other items for the dogs,” Szot said. “The officers know their dogs and know what equipment they need. They know what is needed to keep the K-9s safe, so we trust them to help us in the process.”

Szot hopes to raise the money for the items by May 15.

“Any donation is appreciated,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s large or small, everything adds up. The safer we can keep those dogs, the better.”

Donations are tax deductible because of the Riley Mackenzie Fund’s status as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization.

Checks can be sent to The Riley MacKenzie Fund, PO Box 27, Paris, MI 49338. Please attach a note or put something in the memo section to distinguish the purpose of the donation. Anyone with questions about the fundraiser can emailrileymackenziefund@yahoo.com.