Calendar pooch

Leadership Blount Class of 2008 raises funds for Wilderwood Service Dogs

The Leadership Blount Class of 2008 wrapped up a year of service and discovery with a musical parody at graduation on May 15, but the class’s efforts to support Wilderwood Service Dogs and other community initiatives will continue well beyond commencement.

“The one word that comes to mind when I think about the class of 2008 is passionate,” said Cathy Cate, executive director of Leadership Blount. “Throughout the year, the class came together to give back and support several worthy causes in need and also did not hesitate to help each other in times of crisis or loss.”

Though class is over, the graduates’ passion will keep them together to complete their legacy project to provide a local family with a service dog from Wilderwood Service Dogs Foundation.

Wilderwood Service Dogs is a non-profit organization in Maryville that specializes in providing service dogs specifically trained to handle the challenges of spectrum disorders and other neurological impairments such as autism, Asperger’s, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, mild mental retardation or brain injury. Wilderwood is only one of five organizations in the country to provide such a service.

“We chose Wilderwood as our legacy project because it touches and helps multiple groups in need within the Blount County community,” said 2008 alumni Tara Rasher. “The organization is very special, and we are honored to support it.”

In addition to providing service dogs to children and seniors with neurological disorders, Wilderwood rescues unwanted and homeless puppies and young dogs for service training programs, has a teen outreach program for at-risk and challenged youth that involves local teens in direct training of service dogs, offers pet training and provides other community service programs for young people, civic organizations and congregations.

To raise $6,000 for Wilderwood and a Walland family on the waiting list for a service dog, the Leadership Blount Class of 2008 created and is selling the first Wilderwood Service Dog Calendar, which features canines from across Blount County.

In April, dog owners were asked to submit their favorite pooch’s photo in a calendar contest. More than 100 photos were submitted, and 12 local dogs were selected to grace the pages of the 2009 Wilderwood Service Dog calendar. Some of the remaining photos were included in a collage in the calendars, which are now available at the Blount Today and Leadership Blount offices for $10. Thanks to the calender’s advertisers all proceeds will go to Wilderwood Service Dogs.

Calendars will also be available for purchase at the Tomato Head on Thursday, June 12, where 2008 Leadership Blount Alumni Edward Harper will perform with his band Pistol Creek to raise money and awareness for Wilderwood Service Dogs. Proceeds from Tomato Head’s “Sandwich of the Day” on June 12 will also benefit Wilderwood.

For more information about Wilderwood Service Dogs, call 865-660-0095 or visit www.wilderwod.org.

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