Walk for Those Who Can’t
Carolina Canines for Services
Hugh MacRae Park
Reg.: 9 a.m.; walk, 10 a.m.
The dogs of Carolina Canines for Sevice can hand money to a grocery clerk, retrieve a blanket for cold feet, and most importantly affect the heart and life of a disabled individual. Specially trained by founder Rick Hairston, the dogs are support beams for their partners, both physically and emotionally.
Hairston and his very first service dog, Moses, started traveling the nation together to spread the word about the nonprofit organization in 1996. Up until Moses’ passing on March 4, 2011, they provided free-of-charge services totaling $4 million to many communities. The duo truly changed lives by not only matching helpful pups with debilitated people, but also by training therapy teams to offer literacy programs to children and visits to nursing homes. Today, Moses’ legacy lives on in the other dogs and through the teams of Carolina Canines.
On Saturday, March 26, the “Walk for Those Who Can’t” is taking place at Hugh MacRae Park to raise funds so Carolina Canines for Service can continue helping our neighbors. Hairston was kind enough to share more information about the walk and services provided by the organization.
e: How did you first become involved with service dogs?
RH: I [began] training service dogs in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, as a volunteer for a national service-dog organization in that community. The first service dog I raised was Dory, and then I was asked to train an advanced dog. After moving to Wilmington, I looked for a service-dog organization to volunteer with, and there was not one. The rest of the story is that Carolina Canines was founded on December 1, 1996.
e: What is an Animal Assisted Therapy team?
RH: An Animal Assisted Therapy team is a person and their pet that are trained and certified together to volunteer in the community visiting nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, the hospital, schools and libraries. A therapy team must be invited into the public location they are visiting. Carolina Canines for Therapy works with people and their dogs, and is the only community program offering comprehensive hands-on training for both the person and the dog as a team.
e: Why do you think Reading Education Assistance Dogs are important?
RH: Reading Education Assistance Dogs are certified therapy teams (handler and a dog) that have additional training to work with children that are struggling to read. This concept is important, as it provides a different motivation for the children in a fun and non-judgmental way. The therapy team, handler and dog, work together as literacy mentors. Carolina Canines’ program is Paws for READing, and it is an affiliate program of the Intermountain Therapy Animal Reading Education Assistance Dogs.
e: How can people assist with the “Walk for Those Who Can’t”?
RH: The main focus for the walk is for people to come out, register to walk and join us the day of the event. The funds raised help us serve our community and clients over the next year. The planning for the event has been ongoing for over six months, and the volunteers have been in place for several months. The best way for people to assist is to contact us to volunteer for the 2012 event for which planning will start again in the summer.
e: What does the walk entail?
RH: Our walk team has done a great job of planning a brief, informative program before the walk starts, and then a safe walk route within the park of about three-quarters of a mile. The route is adult, children and dog friendly, with water stations for people and dogs along the way. There is also an opportunity for people to have their pets’ photos taken and to win fantastic raffle items donated by community businesses.
e: How can people assist Carolina Canines throughout the year?
RH: People can assist by committing to raising a service dog, or train and certify as a Carolina Canines therapy team with their own dog, assist us with events like the walk, hold a fund-raiser on our behalf and donate to support our programs.
In a few months, we are planning a work party at the office to re-arrange and paint, in case we have some handy people out there that might want to help.
e: Finally, how does it feel when you complete a dog’s training and match him with a disabled person?
RH: It is always an amazing gift when a person is matched with their service dog. The process is quite laborious with an extension application from an interested person, evaluating their needs and considering the right service dog based on the dog’s temperament and skills. That is in addition to the numerous hours of training for each dog with the foster family and advanced trainer. Once the match is made, arrangements take place for the client to come into Wilmington to train with the service dog for about seven days. This time is intense, physically and emotionally exhausting, but exciting at the same time. I often know how much more the service dog will be able to do for the person before the person realizes it.
Registration for the walk can be completed at walkforthosewhocant.org or on the morning of the event. It is only $25 to register, and check-in is at 9 a.m.; walk begins at 10 a.m. Raffle tickets will be sold: two for $5 or five for $10. Prizes include a one-night-stay at the Hilton Riverside plus dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House or a two-night-stay at the Holiday Inn Resort at Wrightsville Beach. Donations can be made by calling 362-8181; other volunteer information is available at carolinacanines.org.