Autism Dog Services Inc. 

Every year the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM) is the premiere fundraising event for Autism Dog Services (ADS).

joelThe target fundraising goal for last year’s event was $18,000.00. Due to the hard work and generosity of ADS families, supporters and sponsors that target was more than doubled with close to $40,000 being raised for ADS. Joel McLellan and his family were a key part of that success as Team Joel was the top fundraising team in 2012. This year our goal has increased to $75, 000 and with help from our sponsors, runners and walkers supporting our cause we know that this is something we can strive to achieve.

Joel is one of our Wait List children. He is 17 years old and lives with autism. He loves dogs and eagerly looks forward to the companionship and safety an ADS dog will bring to his life. Joel loves to walk in his neighbourhood with his parents, John and Sue and his daily outings became the catalyst for the fundraising success of Team Joel.

“We would go for walks in the neighbourhood and tell people we know about our entering a team in the Scotiabank Marathon,” says Joel’s Mom Sue. “We never really asked for anything. Just in conversations we would bring up ADS and how Joel missed the companionship of our dog that passed away.”

The McLellan’s beloved dog passed away three years ago and Joel was devastated. He not only lost his best friend but the companion who made him feel safe and secure. John and Sue began looking after dogs in the neighbourhood when people would go on vacation to help Joel with his loss. She would share this story to people and tell them how much an ADS dog will help Joel live a full, independent life.

Fundraising, as Sue discovered, isn’t about a hard sell. It is about building relationships and sharing stories to find a common bond or interest. Team Joel invited family and friends to walk with them in the marathon and Sue asked people to do one of three things: Join them, Sponsor them or Send well wishes.

Three weeks before STWM Team Joel had no sponsors so Sue’s cousin made a pamphlet. Told from Joel’s voice with pictures of him at ADS Training Sessions, people could read and see how much a service dog will bring positive change to his life. Sue asked people if they would put the pamphlet on their fridge for a week so visitors to their home could see it. The response was amazing.

“Everyone in our neighbourhood knows us and Joel from our walks,” she explains. “Joel prepped a little speech to say when he met people and handed them the pamphlet. We went from no sponsors or money to raising over $2,000.00 in a very short time.”

Team Joel’s success came about from getting people in their neighbourhood talking. They involved family and friends asking them to speak to others on their behalf. “If everyone tells one story it branches out to raise awareness with more people,” says Sue. “Joel also played a very special role. It was his Team and he loved meeting people to show them how excited he is about one day having his own ADS dog.”

Team Joel involved their community and through the simple act of conversation were the top fundraisers at the STWM raising $14,000.00! They hope their story inspires other Waiting List families with their fundraising efforts and look forward to next year’s event.

We send a very special Thank You to Joel, his family, friends and neighbours for their ongoing efforts and generous support of Autism Dog Services! We also encourage you to sponsor ADS this year, or run or walk to show you want to help others like Joel.