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Bikers ride to support Guide Dogs of America

Posted: May 18, 2014 10:22 p.m.
Updated: May 18, 2014 10:22 p.m.

A motorcyclist drives by with a guide dog in the background at the Guide Dogs of America Rides for Guides event in Santa Clarita on Sunday.

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Guide dogs in yellow vests and bikers in black leather met Sunday for the 11th Annual Ride For Guides to raise money for Guide Dogs of America.

About 500 bikers rumbled out of the Old Road Harley-Davidson parking lot on Centre Pointe Parkway Sunday morning, setting out on a 100-mile return road trip all in an effort to raise money for the training of guide dogs to assist the blind.

“What’s not to love about this? It’s guide dogs for the blind,” said biker Michelle Ahrens, who participated in the event with her husband, Dave.

The Ahrens, of the West Coast Weasels motorcycle club, made the trek from their home in Thousand Oaks.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Dave said. “It’s a great event for a good cause.”

The whole point of the dogs and bikers event is to benefit Guide Dogs of America, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1948, located in Sylmar, which breeds, raises and professionally trains guide dogs, then provides them — free of charge — to blind recipients.

Lorri Bernson started the annual “Ride for Guides” 11 years ago, wanting to help raise money for the costs of raising and training a special breed of dog that could assist those who cannot see.

“I’m blind,” Bernson said, holding onto the leash of her guide dog, Carter.

Bernson became blind in 1995, she said. She was matched with her first guide dog, Nigel, in 2002.

“When I received him (Nigel) my life changed,” she said. “When you lose your sight, you lose your independence. “There’s not a lot you can do on your own, safely.

“I trust them more than I trust people,” Bernson said about guide dogs. “Every time I leave the house, is an ‘ah-ha’ moment because I don’t know how many open manhole covers I’ve been steered away from.”

Sunday’s 100-mile ride — which cost each biker either $25 or $30 depending on when they bought their ticket — included lunch and a raffle ticket.

Guide dogs and their handlers manned five pit stops along the ride route.

At 9:20 a.m. Sunday, handler Dave Mckenzie and his dog, Augie, headed out to their post at the #2 pit stop on the Angeles Crest Highway.

“Everything’s good,” he said about the event.

Husband and wife handlers, Jeff and Debi Jewell, and their golden Lab, Spirit, picked their way among bikers lining up for raffle tickets and those perusing the raffle items.

“We definitely need more puppy handlers,” Debi told The Signal. “You’ll see about 50 dogs here today.”

Handler Nancy Feldman called guide dog training a “win-win” situation.

“If they make it as guide dogs its a win and if they don’t, it’s a win because they become available (as pets),” she said.


chefgirl358: Posted: May 19, 2014 8:58 a.m.


I wish the article explained what they mean by "puppy handlers" and the pet adoptions. I have a basic idea obviously, but it would be nice to have more information on that.

In any case, it sounds like an amazing event.

On a side note, I notice that they didn't need to do it at 3 in the morning or block off half of the city to traffic like SOME events. Funny how that works.

stray: Posted: May 19, 2014 10:10 a.m.

What a fantastic event! I'm ecstatic to know that Guide Dogs of America provides these trained, four legged friends to the less fortunate people who cannot see. Wow, what a great organization! I cannot imagine the amount of bonding the dog and blind person will have over time!

This just reminded me of a movie I had just seen about a week ago where a young mother had an accident and lost her eye sight completely. She then bonded with her guide dog and it changed her entire outlook on life. She then became a happier person. It was so sad.

blpinc: Posted: May 19, 2014 12:11 p.m.

chefgirl358: Puppy handlers, also known as"Puppy Raisers" are volunteers that raise a "puppy in training" from the age of 7 weeks to 18 months old. The puppy raiser's job is to socialize and provide basic obedience to the Guide Dogs of America puppy that they have been selectively given. GDA does a great job of matching the temperment of the puppy raiser to the temperment of the puppy. GDA provides ongoing training and obedience to the puppy raisers as well as all medical care, while the puppy raiser is raising their dog.

blpinc: Posted: May 19, 2014 12:16 p.m.

Guide Dogs are given, free of charge, to the blind recipient. Guide Dogs of America does not rely on any local, state, or federal conrtibutions of any kind, but rather soley on the generosity of private donations, corporate donations, wills, bequests, and of course these wonderful fund raisers. If one of Guide Dogs of America's dogs do not pass the program, the dogs are either career changed to a different service, or they are adopted out to a well qualified and vetted person. Often times, the puppy raiser will adopt the dog should their dog not make the program.

chefgirl358: Posted: May 19, 2014 1:49 p.m.

blpinc, thank you so much for the information. That is truly awesome!

emheilbrun: Posted: May 20, 2014 7:12 a.m.

Over 400 Harleys and 12 scooters. SCV Scooter Group and the Vespa Sherman Oaks Scooter Group representing. A great event for a great cause and extremely well organized.

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