Walk gives dogs a new leash on life

Sometimes, we take steps to help others. On May 29, that will literally be the case, as dozens of Markhamites will be walking, step by step, at the Lions Club Purina Dog Walk, to raise funds for much-needed dog guides.

All funds collected provide, at no cost, specially-trained dog guides to Canadians with physical and medical disabilities. More than 200 communities nationwide participate in the event annually, last year raising more than a million dollars combined – more than $13 million since 1985.

“It supports a very good cause, and people with disabilities depend on this event. That speaks to my heart,” remarked Mark Carrington, chair of the Lions Club committee and coordinator of the local event, his third to date.

Each walk is organized by local Lions Club volunteers with support from Lions Foundation of Canada. The event’s main sponsors are Purina and Pet Valu.

While each dog guide is provided free of charge to clients, the cost of the entire animal training is roughly $25,000, according to Jenny Gladish, communications manager for Lions Foundation Canadian Dog Guides.

That cost covers breeding, socialization, formal training, matching the recipient, flying a client to meet, bond and train, and training follow up to ensure the next eight to ten years with the animal will go smoothly.

With 15 local Lions members directly involved in the planning of the event, they – and walkers - have raised enough in the past three years to support a dog-client team, according to Carrington.

Currently, there are 900 dogs in use across Canada, including each territory, assisting with the blind, hearing impaired, autism assistance, and diabetic alerts.

“I am excited that we can help people who need help, and make their lives easier,” said Carolyn Stephenson, one of the vice presidents of the Markham Lions Club.

Last year in Markham, some sixty people gathered with about thirty dogs, according to Stephenson (though the event is pet friendly, you don’t need a pet to participate).

The walk will commence at 1 p.m at Grace Anglican Church (19 Parkway Ave.,); East to Elm Street; South on Elm to Church; West on Church to Markham Rd (Hwy 48); North to Parkway (back to the church). It is about a half-hour walk. Registration is at 1pm; 2pm walk.

There is no registration fee; all ages and abilities are welcome.

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