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Paw-A-Thon fills Hoffman Park with waggin' tails

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Diesel, a cattle dog mix, goes through an obstacle course at the first ever Paw-A-Thon at Hoffman Park Saturday, May 6. Diesel, a rescue dog, has trained for four years with Emily Chapman, one of two adult instructors for a Pierce county 4-H dog training program. Chapman, and the other adult instructor work with kids and help them train dogs. Gretta Stark / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

A group of Meyer Middle School students lent a helping "paw" to UW-River Falls students in ADEPT (Assistance Dog Educational Program and Training), formerly known as the Service Dog Training Program during a Paw-A-Thon fundraiser Saturday, May 6 at Hoffman Park.

The kids are part of the middle school Lego League robotics team. One of the requirements for the competition they in which they competed was to do a project that helped the community in some way related to the year's theme, said coach Jeremy Odegard. This year's theme was "animal allies."

In their research on finding ways to help animals in the community, the Lego League kids heard from Professor Beth Rausch, head of the ADEPT program.

"It takes about $30,000 to train one service dog, and a large percentage of that $30,000 is dedicated to feeding the animals," said Odegard. "The kids thought that was an interesting problem to attack."

The event will included a 5K for people and dogs, and several other dog-themed activities. 

Odegard said the turnout was solid, and the weather "unbeatable."

"We were aiming for 100 participants and we counted 107 waivers when the event closed," Odegard said. 

The Paw-A-Thon raide about $4,500 for ADEPT, Odegard said, and more funds continued to be donated."It looks like we will approach the $5000 mark," he siad.he said anyone who would like to donate can still do so online at

"More importantly, we were able to raise awareness within the community," Odegard said. "The kids were very proud at the end of the day. The City Council, Park Board, Chamber of Commerce, School District, and University leadership provided an overwhelming amount of support. 

"So many other organizations donated their time and support as well - Pierce County 4H Dog Agility Team, Pierce County Sheriff K9 Unit, Pawsitive Perspectives Assistance Dogs (PawPADs), Discount Pet Supply, UWRF Falcon Foods, and many others. 

"We are all grateful to live in a community where a group of Middle School students are encouraged to follow their dreams"

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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