Thankful for grandson’s gift of guide dog

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Garrett Serey received the gift of a guide dog with the help of his grandfather Rich Moline and Lions member Phil Coughlin. Garrett is pictured with his guide dog Moya, Phil, and Lioness Nancy Coughlin. Photo provided by Rich Molina

Garrett Serfey became legally blind at 16-months-old due to lack of oxygen to his brain. As he grew older, his condition worsened to the point that he has to wear protective eyeglasses and use a cane. When not at school, Garrett didn’t want to wear his glasses or use his cane. “Sometimes he would, sometimes he wouldn’t. That’s where the challenge was,” said his grandfather Rich Moline, a long time Canyon Lake resident.

Concerned for Garrett, Rich came up with a plan and offered his grandson an incentive to wear his protective glasses. “I told him that if he would wear them I would see about getting him on the list for a seeing-eye dog,” Rich said. The incentive worked and Garrett held up to his end of the bargain.

Rich reached out to Canyon Lake Lions Club member Phil Coughlin for help. Phil contacted Guide Dogs of the Desert, an organization he’s supported through his 36 years of work with the Lions Club. Guide Dogs of the Desert provides custom trained guide dogs for the blind and for those with special needs, for safe mobility, companionship and independence. The dog’s training, student’s training and accommodations at the training facility are funded by private donations and clubs, such as the Lions Club.

Guide Dogs of the Desert informed Phil that the recipient of the dog had to be at least 18 years of age, which meant Garrett would have to wait eight more years for a seeing-eye dog. This was disappointing news for Garrett.

A few weeks later, Rich’s wife Darlene met a woman who was training a seeing-eye dog in Nevada and discussed the situation with her. The woman told Darlene about Guide Dogs of the Desert’s “career change” dogs. “These are the dogs that don’t pass all the tests to graduate to seeing-eye dogs,” said Rich.

That evening, Rich visited the organization’s website and submitted an online application for Garrett. A Guide Dog of the Desert representative called the following day to say they had a perfect match for Garret. Moya, a two-year-old Labrador, was available immediately. Moya was fully trained but did not graduate because she failed the heavy traffic test. “She hates cars,” said Rich. Since Garrett is never around heavy traffic alone, this was not an issue for the family.

The next day, Garrett’s family picked up Moya and brought her home. “She’s part of the family now,” said Rich.

It’s been three months since Moya joined the family and she and Garrett have formed quite a bond. “It’s been life-changing,” said Rich. “Garrett’s social interaction, independence, confidence and personality all have grown since he’s been around Moya.”

Rich is grateful to the Lions and Lioness Clubs and thankful for those who donate to them. “This success is a direct result of the efforts made by them and the residents in Canyon Lake,” said Rich. “None of this magic and blessings could have happened without the support of donations to these clubs,” he said.

The Canyon Lake Lions Club offers residents an opportunity to serve their community. The club, formed in 1975, is one of the first clubs to be formed in Canyon Lake. It’s one of 46,000 Lions Clubs with an estimated 1,400,000 members in 171 countries around the world. Their motto is, “We Serve.”

The funds for the Canyon Lake Lions Club’s charitable work are raised through its annual events: White Cane Day, Pancake Breakfast and Golf Tournament. A portion of the proceeds from the club’s annual Golf Tournament is donated to Guide Dogs of the Desert.  “Guide Dogs of the Desert is a wonderful organization, it’s a charity we believe in” said Rich, who has been donating to the organization through the Lions Club years before Garrett was even born. Never did he imagine that one day he would need their services for his own family.

The Lions international organization is best known for its work with people who are sight or hearing impaired. The Canyon Lake Lions Club collects new and used eyeglasses as part of a state-wide effort to help those with vision problems. The club sets up a collection table in the Towne Center once a year. Residents who wish to donate unwanted glasses throughout the year can do so by placing them in the donations boxes located at the Canyon Lake Country Club and Pack, Wrap & Post in the Towne Center.

The collected eyeglasses are delivered to the regional Lions eyeglass recycling centers where volunteers clean, sort by prescription strength and package them. The recycled glasses are then distributed to people in need in developing countries where they will have the greatest impact. For more information about Lions Recycle for Sight, visit lionseyes.org or californialionsfriendsinsight.org.

The Canyon Lake Lions Club invites residents to join them in serving the community. The club meets monthly on the second Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Sunset Room at the lodge. For more information, contact LaRue McNamara at 951-244-6470.

The Canyon Lake Lioness Club meets monthly on the third Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Holiday Bay Room at the lodge. For more information, contact Linda Kamashian 915-244-3675.

For more information about Guide Dogs of the Desert, visit guidedogsofthedesert.org.

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Donna Ritchie