Owners, dogs raise money for CCI

Right to left, Heidi Crawford, senior in ACES, runs with her dog Halo while her mom, Suzy Crawford, follows behind with her companion Mugsy. Online Poster

Right to left, Heidi Crawford, senior in ACES, runs with her dog Halo while her mom, Suzy Crawford, follows behind with her companion Mugsy. Online Poster

By Maureen Wilkey

About 100 people and their best friends came to the Veterinary Medicine campus on Sunday morning to participate in the 11th annual Omega Tau Sigma 5K run and walk. Participants were invited to bring their dogs to the event that raised hundreds of dollars for Canine Companion for Independence (CCI).

“This is the best turnout we’ve had in a long time,” said Ryan Llera, a third-year veterinary student who helped organize the race. “The past two or three years we have had cold or rainy days, but this year we have a nice day and have done a lot better job advertising.”

Of the participants, there were about 30 runners without dogs, 25 runners with dogs, 15 walkers without dogs and 30 walkers with dogs. Along the course there were seven water stations, each one equipped with cups of water for people and water in troughs for the dogs. Three veterinarians were also stationed along the course to help in case any of the dogs got injured.

Most of the $16 race registration fee for each participant was donated to CCI, an organization that provides dogs to people who are in wheelchairs. These dogs are trained to do a wide variety of tasks. Some common tasks that dogs learn are opening the refrigerator and getting food and drinks for their owners, doing laundry and turning light switches on and off. Naomi Bress, one of the CCI representatives, has even taught her golden Labrador, Holt, to help her get up when she falls.

“Having Holt has changed my life. I used to never leave the house,” Bress said of her dog. “I was afraid that if I was out and I fell, no one would pick me up because of insurance liability and things like that. Now I have gone out and met the neighbors because I know if something happens, Holt will be able to pick me up or go get help.”

Tom Satkus, a third-year veterinary student, and his wife Kalleen, came out to walk their dog, Oliver, at the race, partially because they wanted to support CCI, which they said was a good cause.

“I’ve never done this before, but it’s a nice day and the money is going to a good organization,” Tom Satkus said. “And it’s great exercise for me and for Oliver.”

Dogs are often not allowed at road races because their leashes could serve as obstacles and because some people don’t like them, said Dipesh Navsaria, a Champaign resident who participated in the race. Navsaria runs with his mixed-breed dog, Trafford, once a day. He enjoys getting the chance to race with Trafford, and has been running the race for nearly five years. Navsaria’s wife and two children came out to watch him run.

“It’s a lot of fun running with Trafford. He can run faster than me for about the first two miles, and running keeps him from getting fat and keeps me from getting fat,” Navsaria said. “It’s also a good example for the kids. By running with the dog and having them watch, they see that exercise is healthy and fun.”

Tony Cappa, a third-year veterinary student, brought his new golden retriever, Ellie, out for her first race. Ellie is almost a year old and loves running around, Cappa said.

“She definitely keeps me motivated and pulls me along,” Cappa said. “It’s a great way to get a little energy out of her.”

The race winners were Gavin Pfeiffer and Kaylin Rowland. For more information about CCI or to make a donation, visit their Web site at http://www.caninecompanions.org.