Portland, OR. Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) held its annual fundraising luncheon event, Caps and Tails, on June 1st at the Downtown Hilton. At the event, a GDB litter of puppies met their volunteer puppy raisers for the first time. Caps and Tails featured a luncheon and graduation ceremony for guests to enjoy. With dogs, GDB staff and clients, guests were able to experience first-hand some of the services that Guide Dogs for the Blind provides its clients. All of GDB’s services are funded by donations and community support. (Photo credit, Morry Angell)

GDB Vice President of Marketing Karen Woon, Project Runway Season 11 winner Michelle Lesniak, and Guide Dogs for the Blind’s Chairman of the Board Tom Kowalski, with his guide dog Dynamo, at the event.

A new GDB graduate and his guide dog being honored during the graduation ceremony.

GDB’s annual fundraiser, Caps and Tails, featured a graduation ceremony of GDB teams.

Guests bidding during the fundraising portion of Caps and Tails.

The first portion of Caps and Tails featured a graduation of guide dog teams. GDB “teams” refer to the pairing of GDB clients who are blind or visually impaired along with their new guide dog. After being accepted to receive a GDB guide dog, each client comes to GDB’s campus for two weeks. During this time they learn to work with their new guide dog, and adjust to the guide dog lifestyle. This training ends with a GDB graduation ceremony. After years of work, dedication and training spent on each dog by numerous GDB employees, community members and volunteers, it’s a very emotional ceremony. Members of the GDB training staff, puppy raisers and the clients themselves, shared stories about their experience with Guide Dogs for the Blind. Guests were able to learn more about the background of graduates and their experiences with the organization.

After the graduation ceremony Chris Benninger, President and CEO of Guide Dogs for the Blind, shared more about the life-changing mission and services that GDB offers. Guide Dogs for the Blind’s Chairman of the Board, Tom Kowalski, also shared his powerful story as a GDB graduate, and the impact that having a GDB guide dog has had on his life. Guests and event sponsors helped raise over $225,000 for the organization, with each donation directly supporting GDB’s important work.

Caps and Tails concluded with a puppy delivery, featuring Project Runway Season 11 winner, Michelle Lesniak, presenting a litter of GDB puppies to their volunteer puppy raisers. Volunteer puppy raisers are responsible for socializing and taking care of GDB puppies for about the first year of their lives. Caps and Tails concluded with each puppy heading off with their new puppy raiser to begin their journey of becoming a GDB guide dog.

From Guide Dogs for the Blind:

As a nonprofit that receives no government funding, Guide Dogs for the Blind’s mission is made possible entirely by the support of donors. Caps and Tails is one of the many ways to support Guide Dogs for the Blind. To learn more about ways to support Guide Dogs for the Blind, please visit guidedogs.com. GDB graduation ceremonies also take place every two weeks at the nonprofit’s Boring, Oregon campus, and are open to the public. You can learn more about those ceremonies by visiting guidedogs.com/meet-gdb/campus-tours-graduations.