Walkathon Raises Funds for Life-Changing Service Dogs

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BluePath is gearing up for its third annual walkathon fundraiser, to be held on Saturday, May 18 at FDR State Park in Yorktown Heights. The event raises funds in support of BluePath's mission to provide autism service dogs, offering safety, companionship and opportunities for independence. 

The family-friendly fundraiser, held from 10:00am to 2:00pm, is open to all ages and begins in Lot 4 of FDR State Park. Walkers can choose between a 1.7 mile or 3-mile loop. Kids will be entertained with a variety of activities including a bouncy house, lawn games, face painting and costumed characters. Friendly dogs are welcome on leashes 6' or shorter.

According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. It is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States, with 1 in 59 children receiving a diagnosis. BluePath dogs and ongoing professional follow up support are provided free of charge, ensuring that finances are not a barrier to receiving a life-changing service dog. 

“Many children with autism exhibit bolting or wandering behaviors, which can make trips outside the home extremely frightening,” said BluePath Vice President and Co-Founder, Michelle Brier. “BluePath dogs are connected to children via a specially designed tether system and trained to ‘anchor’ in response to a child bolting. This immediate, emotionless reaction keeps the child safe – and often helps to reduce or eliminate the bolting behavior.”

BluePath dogs significantly reduce parents’ safety concerns and help children to lead fuller lives. Reduced stress, improved sleeping routines, and more meaningful social interactions can allow families to feel a renewed sense of hope and empowerment.

Nancy Hughes recently received BluePath service dog Benni for her son, Matthew.  Matthew is highly impacted by autism and was prone to bolting into dangerous situations.  Life without a service dog was becoming increasingly difficult, often meaning the family had to adopt a “divide and conquer” strategy or miss out on community activities. 

“Benni came into our lives just a few short weeks ago and he instantly has made a positive impact on our family,” said Hughes.  “Matthew loves holding onto Benni versus having us hold onto him.  We see the pride on his face as they walk together through the world.  If Matt could speak, we are certain he would say thank you for his increased independence.  His brother Danny is thankful for a new best friend, and my husband and I are grateful that Benni keeps Matt safe while profoundly improving all of our lives.”

“We believe the human canine bond is uniquely powerful and possesses few limitations,” said Brier.  “A well-trained service dog makes an enormous difference in the life of an individual with a disability - an impact that becomes exponential as an entire family experiences freedom and reconnects with their community.  We are grateful to the many supporters who make it possible for us to fulfill our mission.”

BluePath’s third annual walkathon has gained major support from many sponsors including:

Presenting Sponsor: Croton Lions Club

Platinum Sponsor: Empire BlueCross BlueShield

Gold: CLG Construction, Elite Carriers, The Neva and Howard Goldstein Family Charitable Fund, Suzanne Hatfield Philanthropy Fund, Team Michelangelo
Silver: 3 Up 3 Down Organization, Au Pair in America, City of Rye Police Association, G.S. Bounce, NexGard / Heartgard, Peekskill Rotary Club, Shrub Oak International School, State Farm - Ken Lemenze, Volz Auto Group
Table: Animal Specialty Center, Decker Tool Rental, Guardian Veterinary Specialists, Hudson Highlands Veterinary Medical Group, Middletown Veterinary Hospital, PepsiCo, Putnam County Savings Bank, Tompkins Mahopac Bank, The Westchester Bank

Walkathon registration includes a BluePath event t-shirt. Adult walkers are $30; children under 13 years old are $20. Visit www.bluepathservicedogs.org/walkathon to learn more or register. Those unable to participate on May 18 also have the option to support walkers with an online donation or become a virtual walker with a personalized fundraising page. Sponsorship opportunities are still available; for more information, contact Erica Stanzione at 914-804-4023 or erica.stanzione@bluepathservicedogs.org

 

About BluePath Service Dogs, Inc.

BluePath Service Dogs, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2016 to provide autism service dogs, offering safety, companionship and opportunities for independence. The organization transforms lives by providing families with expanded opportunities to unlock life’s potential. BluePath dogs are provided free of charge.  The organization receives no government funding and relies on the generosity of donors and volunteers to fulfill its mission. For more information, visit www.bluepathservicedogs.org. Follow BluePath on Facebook at www.facebook.org/bluepathservicedogs or on Instagram at @BluePathDogs. 

BluePath in the News

Our work at Springhurst Elementary is featured in the Rivertown News this week! The Kids and Canines Learning Together Program enables teachers to incorporate dogs into the curriculum, allowing students to learn while also feeling pride and accomplishment as dogs progress through training. Our dogs receive training with a variety of children while helping to regulate behavior and prevent meltdowns. The interactions also facilitate invaluable awareness and understanding.

Read the article here.

Future service dog Lakota receives a hug from a student at Springhurst Elementary School.

Future service dog Lakota receives a hug from a student at Springhurst Elementary School.

Assistance Dogs: What's the Difference?

We are staunch advocates for the rights of people with disabilities. We’ve seen firsthand, countless times, how the right resources can help individuals triumph over adversity and achieve their dreams.

It is in this lens that we present this educational infographic, which explains the different ways dogs help people and why some dogs are entitled to public access. Please read and share - and reach out to us anytime if you have questions.

Additional Resources

Americans with Disabilities Act - Service Dog Guidelines

US Department of Justice: FAQs about ADA and Service Dogs

Help prevent service dog fraud, via Canine Companions for Independence

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Our Belt & Tether System: Thank you Craig

BluePath dogs keep children safe through a specially designed belt and tether system that connects to the dog’s service vest. When a child bolts, the dog “anchors,” effectively stopping the child from a potentially dangerous situation.

Autism’s sensory issues can involve sensitivity to a wide range of stimuli. Some clothing and accessories can cause children to become anxious or overwhelmed if the fit is uncomfortable. When choosing our own equipment, it was extremely important for our belt to be lightweight and adjustable for size and pressure preferences.

We’re grateful to Craig Larsen of Larz Dog Products for taking the time to learn about our mission and the clients we serve. After speaking with autism parents and BluePath training staff, Craig developed the perfect belt and tether system to support our work. While Craig is now retired, our recent equipment order will last us for many years to come.

Craig, thank you for your kindness to us, and for your willingness to go above and beyond to help families with children with autism.

Volunteer Lilah wears a Larz belt during a training route with BluePath Lakota.

Volunteer Lilah wears a Larz belt during a training route with BluePath Lakota.

Dear Izzy

Dear Izzy,

BluePath Izzy

It is the anniversary of the night before you arrived; January 9, 2018. Like any expectant puppy parent, I was excited, nervous and anxious. I had been down this road before. I couldn’t wait for your puppy breath to hit me in the face or to cuddle with you as you would sleep on my lap. I also knew I may be seeing my last good night’s sleep for a while, but I didn’t care. You were arriving. You had been born in NC, transported lovingly by numerous volunteers and I was being handed your care for the next year. You were born for special work, but in that moment, your work was just about puppyhood and I was ready.

As I expected, you came into my life and stole my heart. I took you with me when I could, when I knew it would be appropriate and I knew you could learn and grow from our outing. Oh, the smiles you brought and connections you made. From our trips just around the neighborhood, slowly but surely, we would stop, greet, meet and tell your story. You were Izzy, a pup born for a very specific reason, but for right now, puppyhood was your most important work.

My mom loved your visits. You had no idea, but as a stroke victim, you filled up her otherwise quiet days. She was so proud to introduce you. We both were proud as you demonstrated sit, down, come, and later heel and would even give paw. You were the best entertainment to both her and others in the long-term care unit.

You quickly grew into your “puppy in training” jacket and you wore it so proudly. Like a little kid who quickly changes behavior when donning dress clothes for a fancy occasion, you seemed to recognize the importance of that jacket and every adventure we took. From visits to the local coffee shop where we practiced patience and settle, to entering and exiting each door, to the mall where we worked to avoid the gum or crumb you would encounter here and there on the floor, you consistently rose to the challenge. “Those eyes,” I would often hear remarked.  As you worked, you would check in, always waiting for a reward for your effort, but also connecting with me as your handler.

Though we did our work every day, the play we have had brings some of the sweetest memories. You quickly showed us your love of water and I took advantage of my love for it too. Our first time loading into a kayak, I wasn’t sure about a lab’s ability to stay in a boat, but you settled down and enjoyed that paddle as much as I did. When given the chance, you took advantage of wading and swimming. The long summer days and our proximity to a lake brought us both a lot of joy, not to mention all of those “firsts” I watched you experience as you played in the sand, surf and found every stick you could unearth.

Over the last year, you have become my buddy. In the mornings when I stretch or do a little yoga, you are my sidekick, rolling onto your back and ready for a belly rub while my intent was to reach for my toes.  You have become my fitness trainer, always ready to go out for our 2-3-mile walk, no matter the weather or day of the week.

As you get ready for your next adventure, I reflect on how much you have learned. And, of course, how much I have learned and experienced because of you.

You are now ready with all your basic household skills and so many life experiences too.  The sounds, smells, people, places we’ve traveled, car rides...what a joyful puppyhood it has been. And on the eve of the anniversary of your arrival, I’m reminded that our time together, your puppyhood, is ending soon too.

Izzy, you are ready to explore your potential, to work one on one with a professional trainer who will explore your ability to change another life, to give independence where there perhaps was little.  Thanks for allowing me to be part your journey.

All the best.

Love,

Jeannie

BluePath Izzy

November 2018 Graduation: Excerpts from Caroline's Speech

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To every puppy raiser, ever, the selfless act of raising a puppy for another person is one of pure and innocent kindness. Lyons’ raisers are here today. And we thank you; you represent all raisers. Your hands, your voice, your love, your grit, your determination, your tears and your laughter are now captured forever in the heart of the dog you so lovingly raised.  Thank you.

To all of our supporters, BluePath would still be in the infant stage without you. You are a critical and radiant component to our journey forward. Thank you for taking that leap of faith with us, so quickly and so confidently, that we find ourselves, less than two years old, graduating our first class. Your words of encouragement have been especially important. They are the fuel to our fire as we forge forward entering realms we have never tackled before. Thank you. 

Board members, you continue to push us and never let us limit ourselves. When we reach the stars, you will be there to tell us to go higher. Thank you.

Guide Dog Foundation, you called to say you have an adult dog whose temperament might be a better fit for our work than for theirs. Two weeks later, Sonny joined our path. A month later, you call again, and another adult dog, the beautiful Lyons, joins us as well. Thank you for valuing our mission and choosing to partner with us.

To our fosters. In the last year, 10 families have taken on the role of fostering dogs in their homes. The Trick family is here today, and they are fostering their second BluePath dog. You represent our local community that has stepped up in an incredible way. Thank you. 

To the families who have received these beautiful dogs. The road isn’t going to be easy, but then again, it never was. Sonny and Lyons have a big role in helping you move forward. Part of their job is easy - to bring more laughter. To bring your family together. Create joy. But the other part of the job is much more difficult. To provide safety so that your children may be better equipped to take more steps out in the world. To help your kids feel included in the world around them so that your family can better enjoy a soccer game, a restaurant, or a long, leisurely hike. Sonny and Lyons are ready.  Sonny and Lyons will step in, and they will say, “hey, we got this.”  And in time, you will realize that they do.

To Haedyn and Zayna, you are two young kids who do not understand how unsafe you can be. Sonny and Lyons are here for you. They will dig deep and level the playing field for you. Together, with your dogs, the world will become safer and with safety comes opportunity, independence, and friendship. The dogs will share your anxiety, your fears, and probably some of your chicken nuggets. But they won’t leave you and they won’t judge you.

Families, we are with you today. We are with you tomorrow. We are with you in the days and weeks and years ahead. When you signed on for a BluePath dog, you don’t just leave here with a dog, your family just got infinitely bigger and infinitely stronger and your hardships and your accomplishments will be shared by so many more shoulders.

Today is a historic occasion and I am overwhelmingly honored to be here. BluePath has no limits - of that I am sure.

Thank you. 

Celebrating our first service dog teams!

We recently celebrated the graduation of our first service dog teams! 

BluePath dogs Lyons and Sonny will make an exponential impact in their new homes. They will help children and their parents, support siblings and friends, and strengthen families’ connections with their communities. 

The Azar Family

“Our daughter Zayna is 13 years old and highly impacted by autism. She’s nonverbal and a runner; it has been at least four years since my wife has been able to take her to the store. Zayna also likes to be by herself, preferring to spend time in her room alone than with her sisters. We think Lyons will be a grounding presence; he will keep Zayna safe and be her companion. With Lyons, we’ll be able to do things as a family again.” - Chris Azar

The Cavanagh Family

“Haedyn loves to go out into the community. He’s the happiest loving little boy. But sometimes it’s just too hard. There will be times we’ll be at the supermarket and he sees something shiny and runs; it’s obviously not safe. That’s where Sonny will come in. With Sonny, we’ll gain some independence.” - Jennifer Cavanagh

Lyons

Lyons

Sonny

Sonny

Safety, companionship and opportunities for independence… Lyons and Sonny will provide those precious gifts for their new families, and much, much more. 

To everyone who believes in BluePath’s mission and has joined us on the path – thank you. We are infinitely grateful for your support.

Holiday Shopping at BluePath

Support BluePath throughout the holiday season!

Our Online Store: Branded merch - clothing, water bottles, mugs and more! Shop BluePath.

Amazon Smile: You shop, Amazon gives! Visit smile.amazon.com, choose BluePath as your charity of choice, and Amazon will donate .5% of every purchase to BluePath.

Auburn Jewelry: Purchase “B spot” monogram necklaces, keychains, cuff links and rings. Choose from 18 different colors in either sterling silver or 14k gold. A portion of proceeds from the sales of all BluePath pendants will support our mission. Shop the Auburn collection here.

Thank you!

Photo: Dana Van Bourgondien

Photo: Dana Van Bourgondien

BluePath receives $10,000 grant from Carvel Foundation

BluePath Service Dogs is the proud recipient of a $10,000 grant from The Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation.

In 1936, the late Thomas Carvel founded the soft serve ice cream brand, Carvel. Fueling a desire to make a positive difference in the world, Thomas and his wife, Agnes, created the Foundation in 1976. The Foundation devotes its resources to a variety of projects and programs, including ones that benefit children and individuals with disabilities.

This grant will help us continue to train autism service dogs, offering safety, companionship and opportunities for independence. We are truly grateful for the Foundation’s continued support of our work.

BluePath Cruze  Photo Credit: Melissa J Davis Photography

BluePath Cruze

Photo Credit: Melissa J Davis Photography

And the ring-bearer is.... BluePath Mikey!

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If you could read a puppy raiser’s mind, you’d likely hear “note-to-self; this needs work” or NTS/NW. Mikey is at a stage where that thought runs through my mind quite frequently. He knows the verbal and hand cues for all of his commands. Unique challenges out in the real world are a chance to test his skills. So when my niece informed me that she wanted Mikey to be the ring-bearer at her wedding I eagerly agreed. What a puppy raiser’s dream! He would be 8 months old by the time of her wedding with the manners and maturity needed to rise to the occasion. As the wedding drew nearer her grandmother laughed at the idea that this energetic, goof-ball would successfully get the rings where they needed to go. (NTS/NW, prove Nana wrong.)

By the end of the Friday night dress rehearsal, NTS/NW flooded my head. Mikey loves meeting people and was beside himself having to ignore the bridal party. How was I going to get him down the aisle once all those chairs were filled? We learned where we were to stand and got a sense of how long the ceremony would be. We also learned that the lawn of a vineyard in New York’s Finger Lakes Region is bug land. Gnats formed a gray cloud around Mikey,  causing him to squirm beside me. Investigating the little buggers, he began licking down there. No, no, no. (NTS/NW, he needs to ignore the bugs.) We’d line-up at 5:30pm. The ceremony, dinner and dancing would add up to 4-5 hours that this puppy would have to manage his impulses and demonstrate the superb training BluePath Service Dogs are known for. (NTS/NW, make this fun for him.)

We arrived on Saturday ahead of time and gave Mikey a chance to just be a dog. We played fetch, tugged with a brand new toy, went for a walk where he sniffed to hearts content and said hello to dozens of visiting tourists. I waited until the very last minute to get him dressed and lined up for the procession. Walking down the aisle he was focused and relaxed. My gratitude and adoration for my 4-legged teammate pulsated down the leash with every ‘aw, how cute!’ from the wedding guests. The ceremony began with champagne toasts from the maid of honor and best man. Mikey’s ‘champagne’ was a chew toy stuffed with treats attached to a rope. Holding my champagne glass in one hand and hanging onto his toy with the other to prevent it from rolling out of his reach, he quietly paid no mind to the bugs.

From left to right: Anne, Abby, Phil and of course, Mikey.

From left to right: Anne, Abby, Phil and of course, Mikey.

Pictures followed, then inside for the reception. Mikey’s stamina was waning. He had a difficult time settling under the table. (NTS/NW, his endurance will get better as he gets older.) He was happy to jump into his crate in the car for a break during dinner. When the dancing started I brought him back in for his next training challenge. With dinner over it had become a different scene. He was completely at ease with the frenetic energy as we entered the room, but something else grabbed his attention. Popcorn and cake crumbs littered the floor. (NTS/NW, must practice dropping tidbits on the floor at home.) We moved beyond the food remnants and were swarmed as soon as we reached the dance floor. No worries, this is where Mikey excels. He looked at me for an ok to say hi and squirmed with joy as he greeted everyone.

I handed his leash to the bride, then the best man, then one guest after another. Each of them took him across the room to a new cluster of partyers where they in-turn were swarmed and Mikey was amazing. What they saw was a super cute, well-mannered puppy they could play with in the middle of a wedding reception. What I saw was a puppy in training practicing his future job of drawing people to the person on the other end of his leash.

When I made my rounds to say goodnight, Nana was pretty impressed with how well Mikey had done. (NTS/TY, remember to thank the bride for giving Mikey this excellent chance to further his training.) “Seeing is believing.” I said, “He’s on the right path.”