On paper, Larry Wainwright and his guide dog Otis have raised more than $10,000 for the Walk For Dog Guides fundraiser. But when you ask Wainwright how he was able to raise such a large sum, he’ll point you in the direction of his wife Hilda.
“A good friend of ours [once said]: ‘We’ve known for years Larry gets all the credit, [but] Hilda does all the work,’” Larry said jovially.
The Wainwrights have been active in the community for decades, which is part of the reason as to why they can drum up so much support for their cause. Both are involved with Lions Club of Ariss and Maryhill, where Larry is the president. Guide dogs are a major cause for the Lions internationally.
“We’ve been around here for so many years,” said Wainwright. “So I know so many people [who own] businesses, [for] a lot of them their children are running it now.”
The Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides is a national fundraising event organized by the Lions Foundation of Canada and held in more than 300 communities. Its aim is to raise funds for the training of dog guides that support Canadians with visual, hearing, medical or physical disabilities. To date the walk has raised more than $19 million. Looking at the fundraising leader-boards, Wainwright takes the number-one spot for funds raised.
“The beauty of it is, every dollar goes to the cost of preparing a dog,” said Wainwright. “Whether it goes to breeding, fostering, training or graduating that dog, every penny is used for it.”
Wainwright said he understands the importance of assistance dogs on a personal level, he has lived with progressive vision loss since 1976 that left him totally blind in 2016. But with his seeing dog Otis and wife Hilda by his side, he hasn’t let his vision impairment put a stop to the couple’s fundraising efforts.
“You hang on to the handle as loosely as you can,” explained Wainwright. “You have to read what he’s [Otis] telling you… you go with him.”
An added challenge to the bond of trust between Larry and Otis is the advent of Wainwright’s Charles Bonnet syndrome, which is a condition that causes a person whose vision has started to deteriorate to see things that aren’t real. Wainwright described one event on a walk with Otis which left him standing still in fear of what lay on the path ahead.
“I just stopped – I panicked. And he [Otis] didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “Down in front of me was a hole that had eight steps going down to a landing and another eight and went on to infinity.”
But Larry and Hilda don’t let these challenges get in the way of a good fundraiser. The true joy for the couple isn’t the awards or recognition they receive, it’s hearing about the lives that they helped change.
“Don’t make it like I’m some kind of a hero – that’s not what I’m here for,” said Wainwright. “If I can make a difference in somebody’s life, that’s what we’re supposed to do.”