At the tender age of 14, Alexandra Millet resolved to find a career where she could help people with disabilities.
While volunteering for Shake-A-Leg Miami, she met a 5-year-old boy who couldn’t walk.
“I grew up privileged, I grew up spoiled,” she said. “I didn’t know anyone who had a disability growing up. I thought it was only older people who couldn’t walk anymore.”
Her emotions gave way to sadness until the boy told her: “You’re sad because you’re thinking of how bad it would be if you couldn’t use your legs. I’m not sad. I’ve never been able to use my legs – I don’t know what that’s like.”
Millet helped the boy use a kayak that day. She found her calling.
“I can’t even explain it. I can’t put it into words,” Millet said of how she felt after seeing the boy enjoy time on the water. “Now, I always want to try to find a solution where I can make something happen. I love being that support system for people and being that person who says let’s figure it out.”
In the years that followed, Millet researched her career options and decided to pursue a recreational therapy degree at FIU so she could better help people with disabilities.
She would also become close friends with Raquel Cruz. They bonded over baseball. Millet’s brother played high school ball and so did Cruz’s son. As the season progressed so did their friendship. Millet eventually came to learn Cruz was a Gulf War veteran who has post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We just connected and became close friends,” Millet said. “She’s family.”
Millet said Cruz was helped greatly by her service dog, Blue, an American bulldog. Blue was killed by car in the summer of 2016.
“The only thing keeping her steady was the service dog,” Millet said.
Then Cruz learned that Blue had sired eight puppies with a friend’s dog she was fostering. Millet and Cruz hatched a plan to start a non-profit that would provide service dogs to help veterans like Cruz cope with battlefield injuries. In three short months, they founded Blues for Vets. Blue’s puppies are being trained as service dogs to one day provide support for veterans.
“Some veterans are dealing with their inner demons, and they’ve been away from home for a long time,” Millet said. “They don’t know how to be civilians anymore, so our goal is to give them service dog and help them become part of the community again.”
With commencement just days away, Millet is also interning at Miami’s Veterans Affairs Hospital. In the fall, she will begin working toward a master’s degree in occupational therapy. She’ll also continue serving as vice president of Blues for Vets.
“I am who I am because of my family. We are extremely close. They are my support system,” Millet said. “I’ve learned that it makes it easier for people to accomplish their goals if they have a strong support system. Now I always try to be an advocate for whoever doesn’t have the energy or resources to advocate for themselves.”