Having a dog guide has clearly been a blessing for Hedi Kment.
The Sault woman lost her sight 30 years ago, and is assisted in much of her daily life by Tink, an English Labrador, which is the third dog guide she has owned, provided by Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind.
“Having a guide dog gave me freedom. I never used to go to the mall because I’d bump into people with my cane and they’d get really ignorant,” said Kment, who despite her disability enjoys art, working with fabrics and sculpture.
“Now, she can take me to Walmart, knows where to find the kind of bread I get, where the dog food is, knows where the bank is, different grocery stores, and I’m not afraid of falling into obstacles in front of me,” said Kment, who gets around town by walking or by bus.
“She can help me find bus stops no problem and goes slower on ice in the winter, and takes me around puddles if it rains.”
Kment took part in the Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides fundraiser held at the Roberta Bondar Pavilion and the Sault Ste. Marie waterfront Sunday.
The short Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides, on a hot sunny morning, started out from the Roberta Bondar Pavilion, headed east toward the Lions Club Housing Corporation building at 623 Bay Street and headed back.
“It (the Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides fundraiser) is a very good thing. The more guide dogs that are out there, the better quality of life people will have,” Kment said.
For more than 30 years, the Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides has been a national fundraiser held with the help of the Lions Foundation of Canada, but Sunday’s walk on the Sault waterfront was only the second annual Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides held locally, said Doug Moxam, local event chair and Sault Ste. Marie Lions Club member.
Previously, the St. Joseph Island Lions Club organized the walk, but the Sault Lions Club stepped in for the Sault and area when the organizer moved to another community.
$9,000 was raised in last year’s local walk, organizers hoping to raise $10,000 this year.
Approximately 50 people were on hand with their dogs for Sunday’s event.
“It’s $25,000 to train a dog…the Lions Club helps raise the money and helps pay to train the dogs for people who need them. There is no government funding,” Moxam said, adding Pet Valu helps out with that cost on an ongoing basis by pooling all funds raised nationally and divvying it up to individuals who need dog guides across Canada.
There are seven Lions Club-provided dog guides currently helping people in the Sault and area, Moxam said.
The Walk has raised more than $15 million over the years.
With Pet Valu’s help, 100 per cent of the funds raised by walkers goes directly toward six Dog Guide programs:
- Canine Vision Dog Guides, for people who are blind or visually impaired
- Hearing Ear Dog Guides, for people who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Service Dog Guides, for people with a physical disability
- Seizure Response Dog Guides, for people who have epilepsy
- Autism Assistance Dog Guides, for children who have autism
- Diabetic Alert Dog Guides, for people who have type 1 diabetes with hypoglycemic unawareness
More information can be found online regarding the Pet Valu/Lions Club program.