Lion’s Club Goes to the Dogs


Members of the Gulfport Lion’s Club pose for a picture before embarking on a three-kilometer walk to raise money for Southeastern Guide Dogs. From left, Ron Coyne, Jill Coyne, Art Padula, Marty Padula, Rob Vincent

When the Gulfport Lion’s Club found out that Southeastern Guide Dogs relies solely on charitable donations, they decided to participate in their biggest fundraiser of the year – the Guide Dog Walk-a-thon.

“It has special meaning to me,” said Jill Coyne, who helped organize the Lion’s involvement in the walkathon. “My daughter was born blind in one eye and my husband is beginning to have vision problems so it’s a part of my heart that it touches. Plus, I like dogs.”

Coyne wasn’t the only one who liked the dogs on the crisp Saturday morning at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg. The Gulfport Lions Club raised over $1,300 dollars from various and numerous donors, including local businesses, and Gulfport officials.

According to Ron Coyne, the Lion’s Club raised its donation goal four times because they kept receiving donations.

The Lion’s Club ia a charitable organization and is no stranger to helping out those who are vision impaired.

“One of the biggest things we do in Gulfport is take people to get eye exams,” President Marty Padula said. “Every little bit adds up.”

Among other things, the Lions also donate to Little League, the Gulfport Pirates, Scouts and more.


One-year-old Daisy patiently awaits her next kiss while sitting in the kissing booth for donations. Daisy, who turned one on February 2, is training to become a guide dog. Currently, a foster family who will keep her for around 15 months, is raising her. After that, she will return to trainers with Southeastern Guide Dogs where she will learn how to be a service dog.

The Lion’s Club had strong support as they walked the three kilometers around Vinoy Park,  including President Marty Padula, Art Padula, Jill and Ron Coyne, William Wolff, Nicky Vallaincourt, Gulfport Police Chief Rob Vincent, and the Coyne’s pup, Beethoven.

Saturday’s event marked the 30th anniversary for Southeastern Guide Dog’s annual walk-a-thon. According to their website, the walk has expanded to nine locations throughout Florida, and has a goal to raise $1 million dollars from all nine walks. So far, the organization – which “places more than 100 dogs each year into careers benefitting people with visual impairments, and veterans” – has reached over $673,000.

Volunteer Coordinator for Southeastern Guide Dogs Victoria Martin said that 60 volunteers helped run the St. Petersburg walk-a-thon on Saturday. Martin also said that it takes a “happy and confident dog” to become a guide dog, and she would know – having raised 10 of them.

“Puppy raisers and volunteers make this work,” John Whitcomb, member of the board of directors for Southeastern Guide Dogs, said. “The passionate people here change lives.”



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