January 20, 2006.
NorthJersey.com - Hackensack,NJ,USA.
LITTLE FALLS - School 3 third- and fourth-graders have donated $1,300 in cents, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollar coins to the Seeing Eye, a non-profit organization that provides Seeing Eye dogs to the blind.
"We're about social justice here," Principal Bruce DeLyon said. "That means making a difference in someone's life we don't know."
Members of the student council presented Meg Berlin, a volunteer from the Seeing Eye, and Camper, a year-old golden retriever, with the money during an assembly on Thursday in the school's gym.
Berlin said the money would be used to help defray the $50,000 cost of training, health care, room and board and follow-up care for the dog and its new owner.
"The blind people pay $150 for the dog, which is the same amount we've charged since 1929," Berlin told the children. "The money you made helps us make up the difference."
The Seeing Eye breeds and rears its own dogs, usually German shepherds, golden retrievers and Labradors, at its school and training grounds nestled among 60 acres in Morristown, Berlin said. Over the last 75 years, the organization has placed more than 13,000 dogs with about 6,000 blind people.
Berlin said training a Seeing Eye dog is a multi-step process. When Seeing Eye puppies are 7 weeks old, they go to live with foster families until they are 18 months old. They then participate in a four-month training program at the school with a sighted instructor. It takes another 20 to 27 days to teach a blind person to work with a Seeing Eye dog.
"They shouldn't get a cheap dog that doesn't work; that's why it costs so much," said 9-year-old Amina Abdel Rahman, who brought a shopping bag full of coins to donate. "Blind people need help getting around, and Seeing Eye dogs are a good way to help them."
Her friend Jennifer Najjar agreed. "It's worth it because blind people need to get around," she said. "They deserve a good dog because they're blind."
Fourth-graders in Marilyn Downing's class collected the most coins - $264 worth - and said that raising the money was a learning experience for them.
"Blind people are just like us on the inside, but different on the outside," said Jennifer, 9.
"I never knew that there were dogs that helped blind people in the first place," said Paul Yun, 9.
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