Built on the premise that every legally blind person should have an opportunity to have a guide dog, the Coachella Valley nonprofit Guide Dogs of the Desert (GDD) will use a $25,000 grant from the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation to train these special dogs and improve the lives of more people. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, traditional training practices at the organization’s Whitewater campus came to a halt in March 2020. Custom training with blind and visually impared students and their new canine companions were shifted to in-home trainings. The Coachella Valley Spotlight grant will allow more in-home trainings to continue.
“It is generous support, like this of the Berger Foundation, which allows us to provide guide dogs and their training at no cost to legally blind and visually impaired individuals for mobility, companionship and independence,” said Dr. Jonathan Lorenzo Yorba, Executive Director of Guide Dogs of the Desert.
Currently, in-home training consists of a certified mobility instructor spending (14) 8-hour days with the student and their newly matched and specially raised dog wherever the student lives. It takes about three years from the dog’s birth to the day it is matched with its new handler to prepare as a guide dog for this distinct responsibility. Since the nonprofit’s inception, Guide Dogs of the Desert has graduated more than 820 dogs from its comprehensive programs.
“It is extremely meaningful to us to contribute to this miracle of mobility and independence that Guide Dogs of the Desert provides,” said Catharine Reed, Vice President of Charitable Programs for the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation.
Now entering its 50th year of providing legally blind people with guide dogs, Guide Dogs of the Desert is one of only three accredited guide dog schools in California and one of only 14 in the nation. The nonprofit includes a breeding program, puppy raising, formal guide training for dogs, on-campus training for clients and their dogs, in-home residence training, and post-graduate support. The eight-acre facility in Whitewater includes a kennel that can house up to 25 dogs, a nursery, a wellness center, and a 6-bedroom residence hall for the center’s 28-day training with clients and their new companions, which is expected to resume once deemed safe.
“Like many organizations through the pandemic, Guide Dogs of the Desert found a way to pivot and continue fulfilling its mission and serving an important need,” said Jerry Upham, General Manager of Gulf California Broadcast Company, which owns and operates KESQ News Channel 3 and KPSP CBS Local 2.
Through the Coachella Valley Spotlight partnership with the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation and News Channel 3, Guide Dogs of the Desert was featured on News Channel 3 programming, in public service announcements and on kesq.com throughout December. For more information visit www.gddca.org or call 760-362-1459.