Approximately 300 communities across Canada, including Guelph, are participating in the Pet Valu Virtual Walk for Dog Guides.
The virtual event is put on by the Guelph Lions Club in support of the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, helping those with physical or medical disabilities by providing a dog guide for free.
The national charity aims to raise $1.3 million for dog guides. The money will be put toward the training and placement of dog guides, and families will be trained as well.
Guelph’s Jennifer St-Pierre said she and her family are participating in this weekend’s virtual walk.
She said she’s looking to log 10 km with her family.
“I think, for me, it’s about raising awareness,” she said.
“I’ve been pummeling my social media to raise funds so I think it’s just about getting that message out that this amazing organization is there and that they also need support, kind of getting my community around us to rally and kind of give back to Lions a little bit for what they’ve given to us.”
St-Pierre is a professor at the University of Guelph and the primary handler for her daughter Emille’s dog guide Thea.
She said Thea helps reduce her daughter’s anxiety and flight risk while in public.
A supporter of the Lions Club, Kathy Miller said her three dog guides give her a sense of independence and make her feel safe.
Kathy’s dog Lego is a graduate of the Dog Guide program.
“They’re special skills dogs that assist people with medical and physical disabilities and it’s kind of like having my own personal support worker with me 24 hours a day,” Miller said.
“I don’t think without the use of the dogs that I could live alone and that’s a huge thing, just to maintain your sense of independence.”
Miller said they had hoped to have different dog guide teams at the local Pet Valu stores before the walk moved online due to COVID-19.
Throughout this month, people have been logging their kilometers by walking, running, biking and wheeling.
The organization says its goal is to walk 5,514 km, which is the length of Canada.
The virtual walk is this Sunday, but the organization is accepting donations until June 1.
You can go here to donate or register.
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