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HERMITAGE Fund-raiser offers advice to Canine Companions



Published: Sun, June 17, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Telling people about the benefits of the program is one of the best ways to raise money to support it.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

HERMITAGE, Pa. -- A top fund-raiser for Canine Companions for Independence had some advice for members of the newly formed Penn-Ohio Chapter of the organization.

Educate the public about the program and what it does and that will help in fund-raising efforts, said Robert L. Henning, national charitable gift planning officer for the organization.

A group of about 20 volunteers agreed last month to form a local chapter, which will fall under the wing of the North Central Region of Canine Companions in Delaware, Ohio.

Henning, who works out of Santa Rosa, Calif., was touring the region recently and took time to meet with and offer advice to representatives of the local chapter.

Raising funds: There are a variety of ways to raise money to support the organization, he said.

There are always events like bingo, raffles or bowling tournaments, but those aren't always the most efficient way to bring in funds, Henning said.

Getting supporters to make Canine Companions a beneficiary in their wills, life insurance policies or even retirement plans can be an effective fund-raising device for the long term, he said, noting that is his area of expertise.

Personal solicitation for financial support is always a good way to raise money on a short-term basis, he said.

Getting people to volunteer their time and services is one method of educating the public, Henning said, noting he first learned of the organization seven years ago when he saw it mentioned in the Wall Street Journal.

Canine Companions really runs on the backs of its volunteers, from those who offer to raise puppies to those who help raise funds. There are 120 paid staff nationwide but more than 3,000 registered volunteers, he said.

"If you want to make a difference in someone's life, 365 days a year, this is the way to do it," he said.

Helping people: People think it's a dog organization but the dogs are only a tool to help people.

"We're really a human service organization," he said.

The nonprofit organization raises and trains golden and Labrador retrievers and mixes of the two and retains ownership of the dogs but assigns them free of charge to people who are handicapped or hearing-impaired or those who assist such individuals. It costs about $15,000 to raise and train a dog, but the recipients need only pay for their own two-week training period in which they learn to handle the animal. After the recipient is through with the dog, it can be reassigned.

Money that people donate stays in their service region and that's important, said Tom Flynn of Hermitage, one of the organizers of the local chapter.

Flynn is the facilitator for a Canine Companions dog assigned to the John Flynn Funeral Home to assist in bereavement services the funeral home offers.

Close to home: This community is always willing to help but people want to see the results of that help in their own neighborhoods, he said.

Dr. Robert Stein, a Greenville ophthalmologist who is serving as the first president of the Penn-Ohio Chapter, became aware of organization while a medical student and has one of the dogs that couldn't complete the required training.

This program goes beyond the medical care that can restore a person's health, he said.

It can help people with disabilities develop an active, meaningful life by giving them a four-legged assistant who can boost their independence level to the point where they can go to work or college, he said.

XMore information on the program is available on the Internet at www.caninecompanions.org.

gwin@vindy.com




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