Thousands of Australians will pound the pavement with their pooches this month to help raise much-needed funds for the training of Guide Dog puppies.
PAWGUST, brought to life by Guide Dogs Australia has already raised over $297,000 this year towards the training of Guide Dog puppies, orientation and mobility training, adaptive aids, counselling, case management and other services to support people who are blind or have low vision.
The challenge involves a 30-minute walk every day during August, equating to roughly two kilometres a day, which might seem like a small feat for most dog owners, however, research conducted by the organisation found 70 percent of dog owners do not walk their four-legged friends each day.
National Events Manager at Guide Dogs Australia, Lauren Lynagh says PAWGUST will help support the 705 puppies who are currently in training to become fully-fledged Guide Dogs, with the animals to cost the organisation roughly $68.50 per day.
“It’s the only event that we have, firstly on a national level, but also the only mass participation event that we’ve ever done,” she explains.
Ms Lynagh says the campaign has allowed Guide Dogs Australia to reach out to members of the community who may not have necessarily supported them in the past, through active participation or supporting a friend.
“It really resonated with people.”
PAWGUST was established last year with over 5,000 participants raising over $600,000, however, this year registrations have doubled with over 11,000 participants currently up for the challenge.
Ms Lynagh says she is “over the moon” by the response.
“What’s been lovely about this event is clients of Guide Dogs with their own Guides can actually get involved.
“Many clients have said to us ‘thank you’ because they're not in a financial position to donate, so this is their way to give back and say thanks to the organisation for their Guide Dogs,” she explains.
Participant, Katie Blyth completed PAWGUST last year with her dog, Missy, but after welcoming an extra set of paws to her household has registered again this year.
“After a fantastic effort last year in PAWGUST with Missy, I was really keen to participate again this year with both dogs,” Ms Blyth says.
“Not only did we raise money for a great cause, but it also motivated us to get out and walk every day, rain, hail or shine.
“Missy and Leo both love their walks and we have a lovely neighbourhood to explore, as well as venturing further afield, so I would recommend it to anyone thinking about taking part.
“Missy gives it four paws!”
For first time participant, Caitlin Williams and her dogs Maddi and Helvi, PAWGUST has a very personal motivation.
“One of my close friends passed away earlier this year,” Ms Williams recalls.
“She was legally blind and on her way to requiring a Guide Dog, so it's always been a very important cause to me, but even more so after her passing.
“Every step we take throughout August will be in her memory.”
Another participant, Nicole Wain says since her mother and aunty developed hereditary eye issues which may potentially cause them to develop blindness, the event is a great way to raise awareness.
“I am also concerned [due to the hereditary condition] so helping the Guide Dogs by just walking my dog, which would happen anyway, is an easy way to help this August,” Ms Wain explains.
“I have never done this type of donating but see it as a great way to raise the funds they need and get people who wouldn't normally donate to them.”
Participant Jessica Taylor will certainly have her hands full with her PAWGUST team consisting of her five Finnish Lapphunds Dukino, Wunjo, Squeaky, Arn and Jaska.
“I think PAWGUST is a fantastic campaign as it not only helps raise funds for Guide Dogs Australia, but also motivates the fundraisers to get out with their own dogs each day while working towards their goal,” Ms Taylor says.
“I've been to a number of puppy days held by Guide Dogs Victoria and have learnt a lot about what goes into training those pups, as well as the costs involved.
“The dogs that come out of the program change the lives of those people that are lucky enough to receive one.
“I've chosen to participate in the campaign so I can do my own small part to get more of these pups out into the world helping those that need them!”
It is estimated that there are over 450,000 Australians who are blind or have low vision and this number is expected to significantly increase.
You can participate in PAWGUST without a canine companion, or sponsor a friend by donating to their fundraising campaign.
Registrations are still open and are free. To register or donate click here.