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We Dixie Land Guide Dog Users are the South Carolina affiliate of Guide Dog Users, Inc. Scroll down to learn more about us and find out how you, too, can join the team!

Contact the Dixie Land Guide Team!

Contact the Dixie Land Guide Team!
Dixie Land GDU, Inc., 1608 Acacia St., Charleston, SC 29407 (843) 571-0737

We provide education for the sighted community and peer mentoring with advocacy for the blindness community (guide dog, cane and sighted guide users alike), while promoting one community at large.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Top Dog Goes Whole Hog in Charleston!



On January 15, over one hundred guide dog users, cane users, sighted puppy raisers and other friends of the blindness community from across the United States and Canada gathered at the Best Western on Spring Street in Downtown Charleston for Top Dog, 2010. Dixie Land Guide Dog Users take great pride in having hosted this event, in partnership with Guide Dog Users of Florida, North Carolina Paws, and the Charleston, SC Association for the Blind. From beginning to end, this weekend was filled with fun, food, fellowship and furries (working guide dogs, future guides with their puppy raisers and retired guides with their forever people).



Thanks to a wonderful nightly rate provided by the Best Western, many people came in early, just to enjoy Charleston. We began registering folks on Thursday afternoon, January 14. All of our registered guests received a goodie bag, a program in either Braille, large print or electronic format and a commemorative Top Dog T-shirt and cap.



Opening Ceremonies began on Friday the 15th. The festivities were ushered in by The Presentation of the Colors, with descriptive narration provided by John Johnston. Three of our Lowcountry Blind Youth, Shelby, Taylor and Brianna led us in the singing of our National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance and an Opening Invocation, respectively. A zany but extremely heartfelt Awards Ceremony followed, as Top Dog Funvention Chairman Audrey Gunter joined Program Chairman Laurel Jean Walden in presenting plaques to over twenty friends of the blindness community. Recipients included some of our nations top guide dog schools, along with other individuals, businesses and organizations. We wrapped up the evening with a reception, heavy snacks and lively music!

Saturday morning began with a bagged hot breakfast. Our first session of the day, The Blessing of the Guides was officiated by Pastor Don ClenDaniel of Grace United Methodist Church here in Charleston. An alternate river walk was available to those who did not wish to participate in the Blessing. Three other sessions followed: “Maintaining Healthy Guides” by local veterinarian Dr. Ruth Roberts; “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”, an interactive panel discussion between blind youth and seasoned cane and guide dog users; and “Protecting Your Identity” by representatives of Prepaid Legal Services.



After a bagged lunch, the day’s events were far from over! The line for our first descriptive narrated Charleston bus tour formed in the hotel lobby, while outside in the rain, the Charleston Fliers were busy with their tandem bikes. Seventy bus tour spaces were reserved in all, and thirty brave blind guests took a seat behind a sighted pilot on a tandem bike!



For those who chose not to venture out, there was plenty to see and do inside! Our Exhibit Hall featured eighteen vender booths. Guests visited with several of the nation’s top guide dog schools, learned about services available to the blindness community, did a little shopping among blind artisans and musicians, and even took a “hands-on” look at some interesting critters!



On Saturday evening, Top Dog truly went Whole Hog! Two dinner-theater style seatings featured a BBQ Buffet Roundup, complete with Live dinner music and special guest Michael Viljac (AKA Elvis)!



The evening was a tremendous success, thanks especially to our many sighted volunteers!

On Sunday, folks began heading home. A bagged continental breakfast and an optional non-denominational Worship Service of praise and song rounded out this amazing weekend!

Top Dog Charleston featured and honored at least 6 of the major guide dog schools; honored 24 various individuals and organizations for their continued support of the blindness community; provided outlets for 18 separate vendors, blind and sighted, at our Exhibit Hall; offered 70 folks their personal narrated tours of historic downtown Charleston on a nice, comfortable bus; afforded the opportunity for 4 pastors (2 of whom were blind) to bless at least 80 current and former guides; boosted the local economy by filling over 220 hotel rooms that would have normally remained empty, and eating at the many restaurants around the downtown area; allowed at least 30 of our blind guests the once-in-a-lifetime chance to ride on the back of a tandem bicycle through the streets of Charleston, (despite the rain); all the while employing and promoting a blind catering company, 2 blind musicians, 2 blind pastors, a blind masseuse, a blind woodworker, a blind jewelry maker and a blind public speaker. In addition to all of this, we included several of our local blind and sighted youth in all of our activities, recognizing the effect blindness has on a family. We transported at least 40 guests and their guides, current or future, from and to the airport at no charge, thereby reducing the already incredibly low costs for our attendees, allowing them a greater financial freedom to travel to our fair city. All of this and so much more would not have been possible without the devotion of our volunteers, the generosity of our sponsors, and the enthusiasm of our courageous guests! To everyone, and the dedicated workers of Dixie Land: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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Charleston, SC, United States
Dixie Land Guide Dog Users is the South Carolina Affiliate of Guide Dog Users, Inc., the largest guide dog-related organization In the United States.