A ceremonial ground-breaking attended by over 60 people was held in a cold, snowy field north of Sedalia on Monday afternoon.

The occasion was the realization that Retrieving Freedom, Inc., would locate their world headquarters in Pettis County on 22 acres of land owned by and Bob and Barb Hayden on Wooddale Farms.

The 13,000 square-foot facility, once competed, will train and place service dogs to disabled veterans and autistic children across the US. The other two locations for the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization are Waverly, Iowa and Senatobia, Miss.

The address for the new facility is 20360 Tangle Nook Road, about a mile east of US 65 Highway and about two miles north of Nucor Steel Sedalia. Earth-moving equipment stands at the ready on the site when the grounds thaws out this spring.

Mike Lederle, executive director, said Retrieving Freedom was founded in 2011. "I have been incredibly surprised at the excitement levels and the generosity of the Sedalia community. Obviously the land we're standing on right now is a donation from Bob and Barb Hayden from their personal farm. It's going to be a fully-functional kennel. We'll be placing dogs out of here by 2020," Lederele said.

Scott Dewey, founder and director of operations at the Iowa location, said pups are brought in for training at eight weeks, and ready for placement 24 months. The Sedalia facility will house between 30 to 35 dogs in training.

Dewey estimated the construction period to last 10 to 12 months.

The Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce organized the ground-breaking ceremony on day blessed with clear blue skies, one day after a snow storm hit Pettis County, closing dozens of schools and churches on Sunday and Monday.

Chamber President Susan Mergen was part of the golden shovel brigade, as well as Sedalia Mayor John Kedhe, City Councilman Bob Cross and members of the Hayden family.

Septagon Construction is the general contractor for the project.

A $50,000 donation from Purina was presented at the Hayden home following the ground-breaking ceremony.

Hayden retired as president and general manger of Sierra Bullets on Jan. 3, 2012 after 42 years of service to the company, owned by The Leisure Group. He was succeeded by Patrick Daly. The company was sold on Aug. 22, 2017 to the Clarus Corporation for $79 million.

For more information about Retrieving Freedom, visit www.retrievingfreedom.org.