Guide Dogs of the Desert is a nonprofit that provides the blind with mobility and independence all at no cost to the student.
Ryan Fox is a graduate of the organization and just celebrated two years with his guide dog, Tia. He is also the Alumni Relations Assistant for GDD.
“Expansion on my independent life, being able to break doors that originally I thought even with a guide dog were not reachable, but it actually turned out that they were reachable," said Fox. “I feel I can do more things with my life than I ever thought have been able to do before.”
Since getting a guide dog, Fox said he gained the confidence to travel by plane independently.
“Every time we put a dog in someone's hands, that gives them that motivation to get out," said Michal Anna Padilla, the Director of Training. “It's their buddy, it's their best friend, it's their lifeline.”
Usually, students stay on the campus for a 28-day training program. But when the pandemic hit, the staff decided to travel all over the country to meet with their students at their homes. The $25,000 Coachella Valley Spotlight Grant will help cover travel expenses so staff can reach their students.
“This money definitely helps expand our ability to create a better equipped handler so that the team can be successful," said Tim Hindman the Director of Student Services,
Hindman said the money will also go towards creating generic traffic environments for the students. Simulating sidewalks and there are plans for a bus stop and raised subway stop.
“We're training basic skills, and then they go home and transfer them to any situation that they're going to find themselves in," said Hindman.
Giving the blind the confidence to do what they maybe thought was impossible.
“By the time you actually graduate and you leave to live your life with your guide dog, you feel a lot more prepared to be on your own," said Fox.
The organization is hosting its annual Santa Paws 5k on Saturday, Dec. 18. All the funds raised will benefit Guide Dogs of the Desert. All 5K participants will receive a Santa Paws t-shirt along with a 5-piece Santa Clause suit. Everyone is welcome from runners, walkers, strollers, and dogs. You can register here.