Local Fundraiser Goes To The Dogs


Driving rain and cold temperatures could not keep Long Islanders from coming out to support the first annual DogFest Walk ‘n Roll, a fundraiser for Canine Companions for Independence. Held for the first time at Marjorie Post Park in nearby Massapequa, dogs of all breeds and sizes came with their humans with one goal in mind; to raise funds for CCI.


Event organizer Yvonne Dagger, past president and now board member, discussed the importance of the event. 


“This is one of our major fundraisers for the year. It is a national signature event which is taking place in 22 cities in the United States,” said Dagger. “Canine Companions for

Independence is a not-for-profit organization which relies on contributions to fulfill their mission of providing highly trained assistance dogs to children, adults, and veterans with disabilities all free of charge,” she continued, adding that going into the event CIC raised $30,000 and that it takes $50,000 for the training of one assist dog.


The event featured vendors, gift baskets, Peter Mazio and the Hit Squad band, B103 radio, and the master of ceremonies Jay Fiedler, a former NFL quarterback for the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.


Fiedler, who now runs a sports summer camp, was excited to support DogFest.


“I got introduced to Canine Companions for Independence over a year ago and was just so impressed by the work they do and the different ways they help people from kids to veterans,” said Fiedler.


A group of nursing students from Farmingdale came with their dogs, one of them sporting a newly dyed blue tail. Students Kara Jankowski and Meg Hiel, braved the rain with their pups, Blebailey and Beans.


“Part of Nursing is supporting the community and helping to promote causes and what better way to help support people with disabilities and guide dogs?” said Jankowski.


There is only a 40 percent success rate of dogs who make it through the program. Those who graduate have a huge impact on the people they serve. One of those is Captain Van

Thack, a Purple Heart and bronze star recipient who was injured in Iraq. A former lawyer, who now no longer practices, takes 21 pills a day and relies on his CCI dog, Liz. 


“She is a great lifesaver for me. Liz has empowered me to have drive and ambition and to know that whenever I need help she is there to assist me,” said Van Thack. “She is my hero in uniform. With her I don’t feel sad or gloomy and she gives me a lot of independence. It’s great to know that there is an organization like Canine Companions for Independence to help me and there are great Americans who support an organization like this. It has given me a second lease on life.” 


This year’s event was a rainy success for dogs and their humans, as CIC once again got its message out to people and raised an impressive amount of funds for its furry friends.


To learn for about Canine Companions for Independence go to cci.org or visit the Long Island Headquarters in Medford.

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