In an effort to promote independence and confidence among Canadians living with disabilities, the Airdrie Lions Club is gearing up to hold its first annual Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides fundraiser event next month.
The event is aimed at matching trained dog guides with individuals in need, completely free of charge.
By contributing to the cause through donations, supporters are aiding the Lions Foundation of Canada in their mission to provide these invaluable companions to those who require assistance to navigate their daily lives.
The event will be at Nose Creek Park on Sept. 16, where participants can register from 11 a.m onwards. The walk itself is scheduled to begin after 11:30 a.m., offering attendees the chance to come together, support a significant cause, and witness firsthand the impact these specially trained dogs can have on people's lives.
Hazel Hiebert, an active member of the Airdrie Lions Club, expressed the vital role that service clubs, including the Lions and Kiwanis, play in making an initiative like this possible.
"The dogs go to the chosen handler free of charge. Usually, there are service clubs including Lions and Kiwanis that donate the money," Hiebert explained.
This financial support is crucial, as each dog guide's training and placement come at a significant cost of around $35,000 per dog.
The Lions Foundation of Canada operates with a commitment to empowering individuals with disabilities, enabling them to navigate the world with renewed confidence and autonomy.
Through their diverse programs, the foundation trains and matches dogs to serve in seven distinct aspects, catering to a range of disabilities, including vision impairment, hearing loss, service assistance, seizure response, autism, and diabetes.
“Jake who is a dog with victims' assistance in Airdrie, is a facility service dog. He works with people that have trauma in their lives and they go into court with the people if they need some support,” Hiebert said.
According to Hiebert, the journey of each dog guide, from breeding and rearing to comprehensive training and lifelong follow-up services, comes at a significant financial investment and a long wait.
The foundation relies solely on donations from generous supporters to make these valuable matches possible. This underscores the importance of events like these to ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to the companionship and assistance these specially trained dogs can provide.
Individuals in need of a guide dog can apply through the Lions Foundation of Canada's official website. The application process takes into account the specific needs of the applicant, aligning them with a trained dog that can offer the necessary support and assistance for their unique circumstances.
Those interested in participating in the walk can find more information on the Airdrie Lions Club Facebook page.
“People can register online under the Lions Foundation of Canada or we will have a vendor table at airdrieFEST so they can stop there and pick up information,” said Hiebert.