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Last September in Rochester Hills, I joined 71 people as we challenged ourselves to rappel down a 15-story building during Leader Dogs for the Blind’s Double Dog Dare event. While we had a lot of fun, our main goal was to raise money for this nonprofit, which helps people overcome their daily challenge of blindness or visual impairment. I was one of the first rappellers to sign up and raised over $10,000, which was the most of any participant.

My motivation went beyond conquering a fear of heights or checking an item off my bucket list. I was born without the ability to see, and Leader Dogs for the Blind has supported me over the years. In 1994, I completed their Guide Dog Training program and received my first Leader Dog. Slowly but surely, I gained the confidence to take on any challenge. That’s why, years later, I wasn’t scared to rappel down Oakland Towne Center. I wanted to prove that people can do almost anything, regardless of their disability, as long as they keep a positive attitude.

Today, I work with my third Leader Dog, a highly trained Labrador retriever named Shadow. With her by my side, I have the freedom to live my life to the fullest. I also give back to my community by being an active member of the Royal Oak Lions Club. While the Lions are great supporters of Leader Dogs for the Blind, I wanted to do more to show how grateful I am for my three guide dogs. So, every week I volunteer at Leader Dog’s canine center, where I help new dogs in training get acclimated to their environment.

I’m excited to go over the edge again on September 21. For the second straight year, I was one of the first to sign up and have raised more than $1,000 so far. It’s funny — I get asked a lot if Shadow rappels with me. But I tell everyone she’s very happy to keep her four paws on the ground and greet me with kisses after I make it down.

What makes Leader Dogs for the Blind so special

I love that Leader Dogs for the Blind is built on the belief that every person deserves to live a safe, independent life. They’ve been providing training and guide dogs to people across the United States and Canada for 80 years. Their other programs include white cane training and a summer camp for teenagers who are blind or visually impaired.

When someone loses his or her sight, trust me, everything changes. The statistics prove this: 90% of people who are blind live in low-income settings, 60% are unemployed and 43% live with depression. Of the 1.3 million people who are legally blind in America, only 10% travel independently with a white cane or guide dog. Leader Dogs for the Blind aims to raise that number, because they understand the impact independent travel has on a person’s confidence. But they can’t do it alone. Since Leader Dogs for the Blind receives zero funding from local, state and federal governments, they need our help.

This fall, join me as a rappeller, supporter or volunteer by visiting myleaderdog.org/double-dog-dare.

Members of the editorial and news staff of The Detroit News were not involved in the creation of this content.

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