Meet Sheldon! Sheldon is a “Puppy in Training” for a bright future in the field of Guide Dogging. Sheldon is just one of the service canines that Guide Dogs of America raises and trains each year. Dogs like Sheldon transform the lives of children with autism, veterans facing PTSD challenges, and the visually impaired. The Golf Outing featuring Sheldon is held each year at Chicago’s IAM Local 1487, which raises as much as $10,000 for this important cause. 

Chicago Guide Dog Golf Outing Raises Funds and Spirits

Community Service
18 August 2022

“He’s a massive baby,” Zack Gittlan said apologetically of the 11-month-old Golden Retriever named Sheldon, who was enthusiastically greeting guests at the annual Golf Outing Charity hosted by Chicago’s Local 1487.

Sheldon, wearing a bright yellow “Puppy in Training” vest is one of the 120 service dogs that Guide Dogs of America raises each year. Each animal will help to improve the lives of people who are visually impaired or children dealing with autism, as well as veterans facing challenges related to PTSD. In addition, Guide Dogs of America provides highly-trained service dogs to facilities such as children’s hospitals, schools, and courtrooms. 

“It takes about two years to raise and train a dog,” Zack said. “We train them to focus on their owners, and to ignore all the things that might distract a pet, like sights, sounds, smells… there’s just a million things that would keep a pet dog occupied. A guide dog has to  be able to overcome those things and provide instant assistance and companionship,” he said. 

But, it truly takes a village to produce the highly skilled canines to become trusted best friends and eager helpers. “It costs about $60,000 to breed, train, and deliver each guide dog,” Zack said. “And we provide all these services to people in need at no cost to them,” he added. “That’s why we are so appreciative of the hard work and support that the Machinists Union provides to us.”

Machinists Union Local 1487 in Chicago has been at the forefront of the effort to support Guide Dogs of America for years. According to the union’s district Community Service Director, Cristina Odoardi, the local has raised “well over $50,000 so far this year,” on behalf of the charity. But, says Cristina, the efforts serve as more than just fundraisers. “We are also strengthening our networks within the community. We’re building bridges and making friends, which is important,” she said. “Plus, we get a chance to meet each other outside of work, and provide opportunities for union members to become more involved,” she said as she detailed examples of community work leading to new shop stewards and heightened volunteerism. 

The Golf Outing itself takes about six months to plan and execute, according to Chicago’s Recording Secretary, Greg Klujewski. “We work on a series of events each year, to raise money and build awareness for Guide Dogs, and also to build community with each other,” he said. “I am deeply humbled and appreciative of the overwhelming support that our union and community have extended to us to make this get-together a success,” he said. “Today, 144 people signed up from all over the country.  “And, every level of our union is represented, from our local lodge to District 141, Air Transport, and the Grand Lodge are here. We have our District President Mike Klemm out here supporting us, and General Vice President Richard Johnsen, and we are grateful for their participation and encouragement.” 

 

“I want to commend Local Lodge 1487’s President, Tony Licciardi and Greg Klujewski for all their work making this happen,” said District President Mike Klemm. “We’re out here bonding and creating a more unified front as we continue to push United Airlines to negotiate a fair contract for our members,” he said. “Events like this create stronger bonds within our union and communities, and at the same time we’re out here supporting a great cause.”

At a boisterous after-event appreciation dinner, General Vice President cheered on the local. Saying “events like this are the crown jewel of our organiazation,” he praised the solidarity it promoted as well as its effectiveness as a fundraiser. District 141 President Mike Klemm also spoke, thanking the attendees and speaking for a few moments about the ongoing efforts the negotiate a contract at United.

Zack Gitland also thanked the Local for its efforts. In a heartfelt statement to the membership, he said that the annual golf outing was among his favorite events to attend. “You guys got to see old friends and golf,” he said. “I get to see the lives you’re changing. I get to see the child with autism that can live a more normal life, thanks to the work you’re doing. I get to see the veteran who needed the love and companionship of his new service dog. I get to see people with a disability who can live independently for the first time. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.”

 

 

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