The annual Doggie Walk-A-Thon, now in its sixth year, brought families out to walk the property at Conestogo Public School with their furry friends June 1. The event is a fundraiser for the Cambridge Humane Society, held in memory of Grace Wynen.
An 11-year-old Conestogo Public School student, Grace was killed by a drunk driver in Maryhill in 2010. She had an immense love for everything around her, but especially dogs.
“We used to joke around because we were determined to get our daughters to every province across Canada and we started referring to it as ‘Grace’s cross-Canada tour of dogs’ because we started finally stopping and asking owners to pet dogs. We would ask what their name was and snap a picture, and that would mark that day in the scrapbook because it was dog to dog to dog to dog,” said Julie Wynen, Grace’s mother.
The idea for the Doggie Walk-A-Thon came a year following Grace’s passing.
Grace’s love for dogs, made the walk-a-thon a perfect idea for Chris Bauer, the head secretary at Conestogo PS.
“Chris started it the year after Grace was killed. She called up and asked what I thought, and I thought it was a fantastic idea because Grace would have adopted every dog from the pound,” said Julie.
“This is for Grace, we do this for Grace,” said Bauer. “Number one, I love Grace. Number two, I love dogs.”
Grace and Bauer had bonded over their love of dogs, the young student would come into Bauer’s office each day to talk about the research she had done on what type of dog was best for her family.
Bauer heads a fundraiser for the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society each year before Christmas, but when June brings the walk-a-thon she likes to support the Cambridge division.
“We like to do it for Cambridge, because of Ginger,” she said.
Although it was Grace who chose Ginger from the Cambridge Humane Society, Julie says the ‘pound hound’ chose them.
“It was more Ginger adopted us. Literally, she came over and plopped over on Grace’s feet, and we thought, ‘yep, this is it,’” she says.
Julie says although Grace’s former classmates are graduating high school this year, she is happy to see the next generation of Conestogo students coming out to support the humane society.
“Actually what is really amazing about it is that most of these kids don’t remember Grace, and yet they still show up because donations go to the humane society and they are doing a great thing, they are doing what they can do,” said Julie.
The event raised a total of $545 this year, one of the highest sums they have had.