Sunday marked the first time Sylvan Lake Lions hosted the Lions Foundation of Canada Purina Walk for Dog Guides. And given its success − raising more than $3,200 to help provide dog guides to those in need − it likely won’t be the last.
“For the first year, not knowing what to expect, we had a very good participation rate,” said Sylvan Lake and District Lions Club member and event organizer Suzanne Leshchyshyn.
Twenty walkers and their dogs traversed one of two routes beginning at the dog park near the corner of 60 St. and Memorial Trail.
Some funds were raised through online donations prior to the event, while others were collected on the day, known among Lions nationally as National Walk Day.
All proceeds go toward Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides (LFCDG), which provides guide dogs at no cost for people with hearing, visual, physical and medical disabilities.
LFCDG also covers the cost of training the dogs – approximately $25,000 each – as well as travel expenses for qualified applicants, who are required to travel to Ontario to undergo a one-to-four-week bonding period with the dog.
Each guide dog is trained in one of six areas: canine vision, hearing ear, service, seizure response, autism assistance, or diabetic alert.
As a national charity, LFCDG is funded solely through donations and fundraising events such as the Purina Walk and receives no funding from the government.
Since it began, the walk has raised more than $10 million.
“Over the years, it has just grown,” said Leshchyshyn, adding it was simply a matter of time before the event was hosted in Sylvan Lake.
“We support them regularly every year, and we just thought this would be another avenue to get people involved,” she said. “We’re very community-focused. (This) involves a different group of our community population as well as brings in people from out of town.”
Several participants of the program and their guide dogs took part in the walk, along with family, friends and community members.
As well as from major national sponsors, the event received support from local businesses and donors.
Thanks to their help, and the help of those who took part, a substantial amount of money was raised in the event’s first year in Sylvan Lake, and Leshchyshyn would be more than happy to see it return next year.
“With the success that we had, and just the comments we received from participants and the public, and as well, our own Lions Club really enjoyed the day – all of those things will play into our looking at making this an annual event,” she said. “If we can raise this amount in our first year, then what’s the limit for the future.”
Donations for the Purina Walk are still being accepted online, and may be made at www.purinawalkfordogguides.com. Information about future walks and others ways in which they can support the program is also available on the website.