Each year, the Lions Foundation of Canada comes together to hold the Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides. This event helps to provide funding that is used towards the training of dog guides that are then provided to Canadians at no cost. The expense to train and place each dog guide is approximately $25,000, which many people that are in need of the dog guides cannot afford without the help of this incredible program.
Dog Guides are trained for Hearing, Service, Seizure Response, Autism Assistance, Diabetic Alert and the newly introduced Facility Support. The Facility Support Dog Guides are used by professional agencies with individuals in traumatic situations. “These dogs are trained to provide comfort to victims or witnesses of a crime or sudden tragedy. Facility Support dogs will provide on scene support when requested to those most vulnerable in our community, as well as provide added support to persons providing difficult disclosure to police for crimes such as child abuse, sexual assault, etc.,” the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides website states.
For Doug Ward, the Secretary of the Martensville & District Lions, the Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides has been an event that he looks forward to each year. Typically held at the end of May, residents from Martensville and surrounding areas come together and help raise money in support of this program. This year however, things will be done differently as restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrict the ability to host events of this magnitude.
Although the event is unable to take place as it typically would, the cost to train the dog guides still remains. “When working with live animals, there is no time off, they require care 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. Right now, they can’t go to the training centre and train together, or bring people in to bond with dogs, but the expense is still there, so this year, we are doing a virtual dog walk,” Ward explained.
The Virtual Walk for Dog Guides will be taking place on May 31, 2020 and funds raised will go towards the 400 guide dogs and puppies that are currently in different stages of training that are being handled at home with their trainers and/or volunteer handlers. Ward noted that Pet Valu supplies food for these dogs, but there are still training expenses and supplies that are required on a regular basis.
This is where local residents come in. You can participate in this event by signing up to register as a walker, or make a donation. By participating, you can go for a walk, ride a bike, jog, skip, or whatever you choose to do and also encourage others to take part. By doing the event virtually, those participating can still safely continue with their physical distancing and still make a difference in the lives of Canadians.
Ward noted that the local Lions Club currently has plans to provide two dog guides to families within the area; one hearing dog and one service dog for special abilities. “One of the dogs would have been placed this summer, but because of COVID, that will be postponed. Everything is in the works, and when all the dust settles, we are hoping that we can make this happen in the near future.”
To participate in the Virtual Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides, visit www.walkfordogguides.com. Here you can either register yourself, or donate to a current walker or team. Ward, who is a registered walker, explained that donations can be made under his name, or to the Martensville & District Lions Club team. Online donations will receive a receipt upon completion of the donation, or donations can be made directly to members of the Lions Club, who will also issue receipts for donations of $20 or more.
In previous years, the Martensville walk was in the top 20 for fundraising communities across the country, and Ward hopes to keep that position by raising as much money as possible. Last year, our local walk helped provide approximately $16,000.
In past years, members of the Lions Club contacted local businesses and helped get the word out in person. This year however, they are unable to do this due to COVID-19, therefore if any businesses are interested in contributing to the event, they can contact Ward directly. “Fundraising is the most important part of this. It is how the Lions Foundation functions and that is how we are able to provide over 300 dogs annually across the country at no cost to the people applying for them,” Ward said.
“I am disappointed that the walk won’t be taking place as it normally would because I was really looking forward to it, but this is at least one way that we can still do our part for this year. It isn’t ideal, but we are hoping to make a few thousand dollars and next year, go back to our usual walk and BBQ.”
Currently, the Martensville & District Lions Club has all of their events and fundraising plans on hold as they wait for restrictions to be lifted. “All of our functions are at a standstill right now; however, we still have projects planned for the future. We want to do an upgrade to the Lions Park Playground area and make it wheelchair accessible and an all-around safer place. We had just started work on this in March and submitted grant applications, but things will be put on hold for the time being and continue working on it once we are able to,” said Ward.
For more information about the Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides, contact Doug Ward at (306) 491-8914.