For many Canadians with disabilities, dog guides can play a crucial role in empowering them to navigate their world with confidence and independence.
Since the early 1980s, the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, which operates the largest school of its kind in Canada, has provided Dog Guides at no cost to those in need across the country. Operating vision, hearing, service, seizure response, autism assistance, diabetic alert, and facility support programs to cover a wide range of medical and physical impairments, the foundation continuously grows to meet the needs of all Canadians.
In support of the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, the North Newmarket Lions Club is once again partnering with the Aurora Lions Club for the annual Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides, which takes place Sunday, June 5 at George Richardson Park on Bayview Parkway in Newmarket. Opening ceremonies will start at 10:45 a.m., and the walk kicks off at 11 a.m.
You can now register to participate online, as well as donate to individuals and teams fundraising in the area.
“I always like to say, this is our chance to change someone else’s life,” said Khrisstina Engel, organizer of the Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides Newmarket-Aurora.
Engel knows firsthand the importance of the work done by the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.
Losing her vision after suffering a stroke eight years ago was “the scariest thing that has happened to me,” she said. Though there was hope that her vision would return, it did not. Adjusting to her new circumstances was, understandably, a challenge.
Thankfully, the North Newmarket Lions Club and Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides were able to help. Engel received Nutmeg, her loyal dog guide, after graduating from the organization’s canine vision program five years ago.
“The biggest thing for me in getting my confidence back was once I got Nutmeg,” said Engel. “My life changed once Nutmeg came into my life. I got my independence and I got my confidence back. I got the drive to do better, and work harder. Nutmeg is my best friend. She keeps me safe. We have a bond I never would have believed.”
To thank the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides for their “life-changing” gift, Engel, a member of the North Newmarket Lions Club, has made it her mission to advocate for the organization “as much as she can”.
“The service projects that the Lions work on are so important,” said Engel. “Working on cancer, diabetes, vision... there’s a lot of really great pillars. Nobody in our Lions Club is left out, which is a great thing.”
When factoring in breeding, training, and a lifetime of follow-up services, each dog guide costs around $35,000. As the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides receives no government funding, they rely exclusively on donations and fundraising events like the Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides.
Last year’s Newmarket-Aurora walk was a success, raising $8,705. This year, which marks the first in-person event following two years of virtual walks, the fundraising goal is set at $10,000.
Nationwide, the foundation’s goal is to "walk" the length of Canada — 5,514 kilometres.
Engel thanks the Newmarket, Aurora, and Vaughan Pet Valu locations for their partnership with the Newmarket-Aurora Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides, as well as their many sponsors.
An online auction is being planned in support of the walk, with details to be announced on the Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides Newmarket-Aurora Facebook page.
For more information or to keep up-to-date on Newmarket-Aurora’s fundraising progress, visit the North Newmarket Lions Club website.