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Motorcycle club hits the open road for service dogs

'The Samsara Saints all have huge hearts and the fact that they raised over $14,000 for COPE Service Dogs… we were blown away,' says organization official

Members of a local riding club used two wheels to help out some four-legged friends this summer.

The Samsara Saints Riding Club (SSRC), which currently boasts approximately 13 members of all ages and from walks of life, raised $14,000 for COPE Service Dogs last month through its annual Poker Run, according to club member Scott Cooper.

The club started the annual charity ride prior to the pandemic to raise money for the local not-for-profit organization, which breeds, trains and places service dogs with people with physical disabilities and at facilities such as hospices, child and youth child advocacy centres and schools for children with disabilities, Cooper said in an interview with BarrieToday

The ride was held Aug. 13, with participants leaving The Last Shot Bar & Grill in Thornton and travelling just over 40 kilometres west to Terra Nova in neighbouring Dufferin County.

“We were happy to have raised that much because it was more than the first time, so we exceeded our goal which was great, but we have way bigger aspirations for this because we’d like to blow it up even more," Cooper said. "I have a feeling that with the right partners and the right effort next year, it could be more like $20,000.

“We actually have a COPE dog named Saint, after the club, which is kind of cool… and he’s actually about to graduate from his training on Sept. 27. We want to continue to do this annual ride and raise more money for COPE Service Dogs because it’s pretty amazing what the organization does for people," he added. 

Deb James, fund development officer and event co-ordinator for COPE, said that staff members were both amazed and thankful for the generous gift from the motorcycle club.

“The Samsara Saints all have huge hearts and the fact that they raised over $14,000 for COPE Service Dogs… we were blown away,” she said.

The money raised will help fund the organization’s Canines in the Classroom Program, James said.

“What makes COPE Service Dogs training method unique and innovative is that for the first year of their training, each dog is placed with several high school students who are at risk of not finishing high school," she added. 

Canines in the Classroom gives students who are marginalized, have learning disabilities or may experience bullying, depression or anxiety an opportunity to learn how to train service dogs and therapy dogs.

“The non-judgmental canines contribute to the student’s self-confidence and as a result, the students are able to overcome much of the anxiety and stress that can negatively impact their schoolwork, social lives, and academic success,” James said.

The program has recently been expanded to two new schools in Barrie: Bear Creek Secondary School and Barrie North Collegiate Institute.

“The money from the Samsara Saints will go directly into this expansion. We receive no government funding and generous third-party events such as the Poker Run is how we stay afloat. We would not be able to continue without generous supporters such as the Samsara Saints," James said.