'Santa Paws' walk through Sheffield's Endcliffe Park raises vital money for Support Dogs charity
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help austistic children as well as people with epilepsy and other disabilities.
The amazing response means the Sheffield-based charity is optimistic about hitting its £2,000 target once all the money is counted.
Participants donned Santa or elf hats and dressed their furry friends in festive outfits for the walk, with people able to opt for a 3km, 8km or 15km route.
Danny Anderson, 35, head of fundraising for Support Dogs, said: “It costs £20,000-23,000 to train a dog.
“Our charity relies 100 per cent on voluntary donations. We provide our services completely free of charge so it’s so important for us to do things like this.”
Each dog takes up to two years to train and will work for eight years before retirement, providing invaluable support to their owners.
They are trained to do up to five tasks to help their owner, such as picking up the phone, collecting the post or even using an ATM machine.
Shawn Logan, 67, was given his support dog Alex after suffering a stroke. He said: “The only thing that got me out and walking was my support dog.
“Why not do the walk so somebody else gets the benefit I did.”
Jill Wilkinson, 65, a retired social support worker and volunteer for Support Dogs, said: “Dogs can do so much more than we think they can.
“The work we do is absolutely fantastic. I’m in awe of this charity”
Ms Wilkinson joined Support Dogs after having a heart attack and has seen first-hand the impact the charity can have for disabled children.
She said: “We had a little boy who wouldn’t go to school, he’d just sit in the house on his own.
“He got a dog and now he’s a different person. He even abseiled twice.”
Some dogs can also be trained to detect seizures in epilepsy sufferers up to 50 minutes before they occur, which Ms Wilkinson said could save the NHS millions of pounds.
It isn’t just those in need who feel the effects of the charity.
Liz Kenyon, 72, a volunteer Support Dogs ambassador and retired teacher, said: “I think the charity is wonderful. It has a dual role because it gives me the opportunity to be with the dogs but it also does wonderful things for families.”
Many non-volunteers also took part. Peter Taylor, 52, raised £120 for Support Dogs.
Karen Parkin, 48, said: “I just thought about how my dogs have been there through my ups and downs and I know how much support dogs mean to those that need them.
“They become part of the family and if we can raise money to allow others to have that experience then it's a worthy cause.
To get involved or donate, visit: www.supportdogs.org.uk.