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Lions Club donates $10K to Southeastern Guide Dogs

By Staff | Feb 23, 2011

Members of the Sanibel-Captiva Lions Club made a $10,000 donation to representatives of Southeastern Guide Dogs at the Sanibel Community House last Wednesday evening.

From money raised at the last two Fish Fry events staged by members of the Sanibel-Captiva Lions Club, the group presented a check for $10,000 last week to Southeastern Guide Dogs, which will allow the organization to add a canine eye clinic and pre-screen their dogs at various stages of their training.

“This donation means that we will be able to provide quality eye health for the dogs that we’re training,” said Helen Arnold, community outreach coordinator for Southeastern Guide Dogs. “This equipment will help detect any possible eye problems before we get too far along in our training, which could save us thousands of dollars.”

Arnold and a contingent of Southeastern Guide Dogs staff and volunteers traveled from their headquarters in Palmetto, Fla. to accept the donation on Feb. 16 at the Sanibel Community House during the Lions Club’s monthly gathering.

“We are very honored that we were able to make such an important contribution,” said Tom Hoover, president of the Sanibel-Captiva Lions Club. “It’s all because of the generous support from sponsors and everyone who came out to participate in the events and made them so hugely popular.”

The $10,000 donation that the Lions Club made to Southeastern Guide Dogs will go toward the purchase of equipment such as an indirect ophthalmoscope, a pan retinal lens, slit lamp, tonometer and the associated reference material together with staff training, and special equipment for safely transporting the dogs.

Helen Arnold, community outreach coordinator for Southeastern Guide Dogs, poses with her service animal, Troy.

“In essence, having an on-site canine eye clinic, will allow our veterinary staff to perform sophisticated exams to respond to and remediate many eye conditions that might otherwise go undiagnosed until the dog is further along in its training or working life,” said Southeastern Guide Dogs representative Jennifer Bement.

Excellent vision is a prerequisite for a guide dog. Prescreening will avoid the expense of starting training only to find that the dog, excellent in all other respects, has a sight defect that would disqualify it from its intended role. The new pre-screening room, which will cost approximately $48,000, will be named in honor of the San-Cap Lions Club and Lions Club International.

“We can’t thank the Lions Club enough,” said Arnold. “They’ve been so generous to us.”

Sanibel resident and Lions Club member Tom Gray, who received his guide dog, Jackson, three years ago, offered high praise for Southeastern Guide Dogs.

“They are always there to answer any of my questions and follow-up on everything,” said Gray. They have a great facility, which a lot of people need access to.

Prior to the check presentation, Helen Arnold and her dog, Troy, Tom Hoover, Bill Sadd, Karen Bell and her dog, Lily, and Dan Schuyler pose for a picture.

Arnold, who has been paired with her dog, Troy, for the past two-and-a-half years, said that having a service animal allows her to be more independent.

“(Troy and I) can go where we need to go without the assistance of a sighted guide,” she explained. “And people more readily come up to you when you have a guide dog, which is nice, rather than if you only have a cane. You become more approachable. Plus he’s my companion and my friend.

Established in 1982, Southeastern Guide Dogs’ mission is to create and nurture a partnership between a visually impaired individual and a guide dog, facilitating life’s journey with mobility, independence and dignity. Through their programs Paws For Independence, Paws For Patriots and Gifted Canines, they have more than 700 active guide dog teams across the nation and continue to add more than 70 teams annually, all at no charge to the guide dog recipient, thanks to the generous support of donors and volunteers.

“Southeastern Guide Dogs also keeps up with some changes other people might not think about, like how a guide dog will react to the sound made by hybrid vehicles. They don’t sound like regular cars,” added Arnold. “People using their cell phones is another things the dogs have to get used to.

Gray also offered praise for Jackson.

“He gets me around the mean streets of Sanibel,” he said with a laugh. “He keeps me safe.

Visit www.guidedogs.org for more information about Southeastern Guide Dogs’ programs and services.