Coastal Pet and Leader Dogs for the Blind Invite Runners to Lace Up Their Shoes for a Good Cause

Amy Chevalier came to Leader Dogs for the Blind because she wanted to be able to take her young daughter to the park without worrying about crossing the street. What she got was a sense of independence she never thought she'd have again.

With help from her Leader Dogs, first Dakota, then Lucy, and now Ember, Amy, who lost most of her sight during her pregnancy, never missed a day of her daughter's childhood. Whether it was taking her to the library or attending a dance recital.

She even credits her Leader Dogs with giving her the courage to return to college and re-enter the workforce. (Read more of Amy's story.)

That sense of independence. That confidence. That's what Leader Dogs for the Blind is all about.

A cream-colored dog wearing a green Leader Dogs for the Blind vest is happily looking at the camera. A woman is next to the dog, with one hand on his chest and one hand petting the dog's head.

Leader Dogs for the Blind

"Only 10% of people who are blind or visually impaired are able to travel safely and independently," says David Bann, director of corporate relations for Leader Dogs for the Blind.

With an estimated 1.3 million people living with blindness or a visual impairment in just the United States alone, that's a huge number of people stuck in their homes and reliant on others if they want to get to the grocery store or go to the doctor.

"Our mission at Leader Dogs for the Blind is to provide those means of safe travel to those people," Bann adds. Their services include white cane training (also called Orientation & Mobility training) and matching people with Leader Dogs.

As stated on the charity's website: "We believe that everyone deserves a life of independence and mobility. All of our services are provided free of charge to our clients … This means that no one is excluded from living their most fulfilling life due to lack of funds."

It's a philosophy Coastal Pet Products embraces, as well.

"At Coastal Pet, we understand how enriching having a dog is," says Kim Stout, president of Coastal Pet. "And, when the dog in your life is a Leader Dog, the effect is tenfold. Lack of funds should never be a reason someone can't live a fully independent and fulfilling life."

A grey and white dog is standing on a brick road wagging his tail and 'smiling'. A female is crouched behind the dog, hugging him.

100% Donation Funded

But providing Leader Dogs, equipment, training, and travel to and from the charity's headquarters in Michigan, doesn't come cheap.

In a typical year, Leader Dogs for the Blind breeds about 500 puppies and matches about 200 dogs with people who are blind or visually impaired. And for each one of those puppies, it requires about $48,000 to take it from birth through training over the course of 18 months before it can be matched with someone.

That's where companies like Coastal Pet and individual donors, like you, come in. Because, everything Leader Dogs for the Blind does is 100% financed by individual, corporate, and foundation donorships.

(Coastal Products has long dedicated a portion of its profits from its Leader Dogs for the Blind branded adjustable collar and dog leash to the charity.)

A cream colored dog wearing a blue Leader Dogs for the Blind vest is laying on the ground, looking up at the camera while smiling.

How You Can Help

One of the charity's most fun donation sources is its annual Bark & Brew, a combination 5K walk/run and beer fest. Canceled last year due to COVID-19, the event returns this year solely as a 5K on June 5 in Rochester, Michigan.

In a typical year, the event brings in some 4,000 people. This year's in-person 5K can only accommodate 400 and is expected to raise about half of the usual $100,000.

But you don't have to attend the Rochester event to participate. For the first time ever, anyone can join the fun and help raise money via the charity's virtual race option.

The cost for the virtual Bark & Brew 5K is $43, which includes shipping of a swag bag.

Sign up at

Want to help even more?

Get your friends and family to sponsor your run. When you reach certain thresholds, you'll receive special prizes like a plush Leader Dog puppy (when you raise $100) or a Leader Dog braille travel mug (when you raise $250).

A black dog wearing a blue Leader Dogs for the Blind vest is laying on the ground while looking up at the camera, smiling.

Coastal Pet Racing Location

Not ones to be left out of the fun, Coastal Pet employees will be lacing up their running shoes for a local version of the 5K with a goal of raising at least $1,000. Locals who sign up for the virtual Bark & Brew 5K are invited to come run with them.

Coastal Pet's Bark & Brew 5K will also take place on June 5, starting at 10 a.m. at the Iron Horse Trail in Alliance, Ohio. All are also welcome to come out and cheer the runners on. (Rain date is June 12.)

Coastal's participation in the 5K shows how enthusiastic the company is about working with Leader Dogs, Bann says.

"I'm really excited that we're able to offer this [the virtual 5K] and I'm really excited that they wanted to get involved and create their own version of it. It's important for the employees and the community in Alliance to see what Coastal is doing and its support of a fantastic organization like Leader Dogs for the Blind."