Leadership Blount Class of 2008 is hoping to make a difference in the lives of individuals who struggle with mental and physical health issues with their 2008 Legacy Project.
The class has chosen Wilderwood Service Dogs for their Legacy Project and hopes to raise funds and awareness of the organization’s work. Wilderwood provides trained service dogs to people with illnesses such as emotional illness, brain damage, autism, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Wilderwood Service Dogs began in August of 2005 to train service dogs to improve the quality of life for individuals dealing with a variety of disorders. According to the organization’s Web site, Tiffany Denyer, president of Wilderwood and a psychiatric nurse by trade, was involved in psychiatric care and nursing for 11 years before starting Wilderwood. She also has trained dogs since her childhood. “I have trained dogs in obedience, animal assisted therapy and service dog work. Wilderwood is an outgrowth of those life experiences,” she said.
Denyer vouched for how effective service dogs can be in changing the lives of their clients. “In all my experience I have never seen anything -- and I can safely say anything -- that has been more therapeutic than animal/human interaction. What happens to a person’s soul and then their perception in the presence of a beloved animal is far reaching,” Denyer said. “That relationship impacts a person’s life more than a therapist, medicine, treatment programs or all of them combined. In that reality, Wilderwood finds its passion.”
Denyer said Wilderwood’s service dogs provide unconditional love and support, they assist in all areas of life such as retrieval of anything, including medication, opening doors, turning on lights and supporting the client in times of crisis. The dogs also are able to call emergency assistance. “Our dogs help individuals gain independence, emotional and physical,” she said.
The Leadership Blount Class has three fund-raisers to help Wilderwood.
• “Say Woof for Wilderwood” -- A 15-month calendar featuring the dogs in Blount County. The “Say Woof for Wilderwood” entry forms are available at the Blount County Chamber of Commerce, on the Chamber Web site, at the Blount Today office and at Petsmart at Hamilton Crossing. Anyone can enter their dog’s pictures for $5. They can submit up to 15 entries ($5 per month). A group of Leadership Blount class members will select the 15 dogs to be featured in the calendar.
• Wild Dogs at the Big BBQ Bash -- On Saturday, May 10, the class will sell hot dogs or “Wild” dogs with all the fixin’s during the Big BBQ Bash at the Alcoa Municipal Building property in the Springbrook Corporate Center. They will be in the Blount Today booth.
• On Thursday, June 12, the Tomato Head restaurant on West Broadway Avenue will raise money for Wilderwood with a featured sandwich. Later that same day, at 9 p.m. at Tomato Head, Ed Harper of Leadership Blount Class of 2008 along with the band Pistol Creek Catch of the Day will perform to raise additional money for Wilderwood.
(Lance Coleman is a member of the Leadership Blount Class of 2008.)