Craft fair and cookie walk at Windsor Elementary raises money for guide dogs

WINDSOR, Wis.  — For Susan Gasel, the opportunity to receive a guide dog was life changing.

“Without either one of [the guide dogs] I would not be where I am today,” Gasel said. “I am a college graduate because of my first guide dog.”

Gasel was born without peripheral vision, which can make navigating everyday life a challenge. But with the help of her guide dog Topaz, Gasel has the ability to go anywhere she wants without fear.

“It’s a huge freedom for us to be able to go shopping by ourselves, go to the mall, to the movies by ourselves,” Gasel said.

However, that freedom comes with a high price tag. Guide dogs can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $45,000.

That’s where OccuPaws comes in — an organization that trains guide dogs like Topaz and gives them to visually impaired people in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota.

“There’s a lot of people who are visually impaired who can’t afford that,” Gasel said. “So organizations like OccuPaws are amazing giving them to us for free, and the support we receive from them is amazing as well.”

To ensure that people can receive these dogs for free, OccuPaws hosts twelve craft fairs a year to raise money. OccuPaws held a craft fair fundraiser and cookie walk at Winsdor Elementary for the first time on Sunday, though it’s the fourth annual time they’ve hosted the event.

Community members had the chance to buy and sell homemade crafts as well as cookies by the pound. In addition, a concession stand and raffle were available to people who attended the event. 100% of the proceeds from the event go directly towards OccuPaws.

For guide dog owners, the event means more than just a fun Sunday activity.

“Our visually impaired clients get their independence through our guide dogs,” OccuPaws Vice President Kristen Shoville said. “They give them an extra set of eyes that they don’t have.”