Our Foundation History

French novelist Anatole France once said that “until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” Years ago, a dog named Maddy awakened the souls of a group of individuals and inspired them to set forth on a journey of giving back.

Col. Dr. Steve Kinne, former General Preventive Medicine Residency Director at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, had retired from the military in 2005. He had served 23 years before retiring to Central New York.

Melissa Spicer joined Kinne at a non-profit organization he was serving, but before long Melissa sensed an urgency to venture somewhere else, to accomplish something else. Kinne described his vision to Spicer for an owner-trainer program that would teach military members and Veterans with service-connected disabilities to train their own service dog, a program he was calling Dogs2Vets.

Over the course of a 20-year tenure, sisters Melissa Spicer’s and Melinda Sorrentino’s savvy acumen for real estate, organizational structure, and fiscal responsibility helped shape their family business – Campus Hill Apartments – into one of the most successful off-campus student housing agencies in New York. The family sold the Campus Hill Apartments, and in 2010, Kinne, Spicer, and Sorrentino began the search for a location that would house this new Dogs2Vets concept. Within two months, they all came together with the idea of creating a place called Clear Path for Veterans. Dogs2Vets found its home, and today Clear Path houses many other programs that serve Veteran and active duty men and women, along with their immediate families, and serves as the region’s single point of contact in bridging the connection between service members and their local community.


The Clear Path facility offers a convenient and centralized destination that’s just 13 miles southeast of Syracuse. It sits upon 76 rural acres in the heart of Upstate New York, and on a clear day boasts impressive sweeping views of five counties, Oneida Lake, and the foothills of the Adirondack mountains.

The existing building was originally built in 1959 as a family recreation center and was known as a place “with a view, a pool, and a golf course.” Co-founders Melissa and Melinda purchased the property at a time when it had fallen into disrepair, fully recognizing its special qualities and significance within the community. The facility now provides a tranquil setting that facilitates a connection to the beautiful natural surroundings of the overlook; a fitting dedication to those who serve.


Clear Path offers military members and their families a home for wellness, mutual respect, and understanding by providing the physical space for gathering and by promoting a welcoming environment. This mission of our organization incorporates a rich history that has grown deep in the land since the founding of our nation.

The Iroquois Confederacy has long been established on the land. Both the Onondaga and Oneida Nations still live in the area. The Confederacy, known also as the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee, worked alongside European settlers to create villages and economies and heavily influenced the foundation of our nation’s democracy with many elements of this early community still functioning today. The bond between the Six Nations and the new European settlers was strengthened when the Revolutionary war brought the British army to American soil. The Iroquois excelled in statesmanship and the art of war. They expertly trained their warriors for battle and placed equal importance on welcoming them home and providing decompression at the conclusion of conflicts. We have learned so much about caring for and respecting our own warriors and it is Clear Path’s aim to assume the role of supporting the restoration of our nation's warriors.

The importance of Native warrior culture and traditions is undeniable. Modern-day warriors relate to these age-old traditions and artistic representations of these ideals are incorporated into the Clear path name and logo. As visitors stand before our beautiful rocky outlook, they are reminded that communities cannot survive without their warriors, nor can the warrior survive without their community.


Thanks to the dedication of our co-founders, board of directors, Veteran Advisory Council, staff, and volunteers, Clear Path now houses seven non-clinical programs that together promote education, wellness, and empowerment for Veterans, active duty, Guard, Reserve, and their families. Through extensive community collaboration, the Clear Path mission has built on the foundation of our cofounders and has created an environment that fosters hope and promotes healthy warriors. We recognize our responsibility to support those who have served and are proud to do so side by side with devoted and talented community members.