Eustis Lions Club Named Top Dogs for Big Donation

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email

When John Fagot needed another leader dog, the Eustis Lions Club offered not only to do the paper work through Leader Dogs for the Blind, but to raise enough money to offset the cost for Izzie too.

"I know a lot of these guys and I know they're very well intentioned, and I said I appreciate it, I hope you understand that you're going to be talking about probably an excess of $30,000," says Fagot.

Leader Dogs for the Blind doesn't charge people for any of the 14,000 dogs they've raised and trained, nor for them to come and learn to use the dog, so they rely on donations.

"This school is the only school in the United States that trains dogs for the blind and deaf," says Len Quinn, a Graduate Field Representative for Leader Dogs.

So the Eustis Lions Club, about 70 members strong in a community of just 400, started raising funds.

Amassing the cost of one leader dog proved a nearly decade long process.

"We weren't sure if we could or not, you know I had someone ask me about five years ago, they said 'you think we'll live long enough to do this?'" says Roland Anderson, a Eustis Lion Club member and director of the club's annual golf scramble where they raised much of their money. " But you just keep plugging along."

And last year they finished, giving Leader Dogs a $20,000 check - one of the largest donations the group received from anywhere in the country - which makes the Eustis Lions "Top Dogs."

Fagot says it's an amazing gift for an organization that's given him mobility and brought down social walls.

"She removes a lot of stigma and barriers that some blind individuals can have when they're standing there with a cane," he says.

But the Eustis Lions aren't done giving: they surprised Leader Dogs with all of their proceeds from Wednesday's golf scramble, and say it's a cause they plan to keep giving to.

Leader Dogs for the Blind says it takes a special dog to become a leader dog - less than half of the dogs born in their program will go on to help a blind or deaf person.


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