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Stater Bros. to Help Get Service Dog for Child

COLTON, Calif. -- Thanks to a partnership of Milk-Bone and Stater Bros. here, 9-year-old Charlie Ristow of Yorba Linda, Calif., who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, will get a new best friend.

The partnership is part of a nationwide effort by Milk-Bone to sponsor Canine Assistants service dogs for people in need.

Since Charlie's disability makes it hard for him to perform many everyday tasks, a service dog would help him to be more independent. Among other tasks, his dog will help with retrieving dropped objects, opening doors, turning on and off lights, and obtaining help in case of an emergency.

At an event held yesterday at a Stater Bros. store in Yorba Linda, Charlie and his family were present, as was Judy Moore-Padgett, a certified trainer for Canine Assistants, who brought along a "spokesdog" for the program, 6-year-old golden retriever Tom, to meet Charlie and explained the benefits that such highly trained animals can provide to people with special needs. Charlie will get his own service dog, which will be chosen and trained to meet his specific needs, at the Canine Assistants training camp he will attend in two weeks' time.

Stater Bros. spokeswoman Susan Atkinson told Progressive Grocer that the event was advertised at store level and attended by about 30 people. "You feel really good about being able to help this 9-year-old boy with MD," she said. Atkinson explained that Charlie applied for a dog, and then, after only a year (some recipients wait up to three years for a dog to become available), Canine Assistants selected him from Stater Bros.’ marketing area when the company qualified to sponsor a dog, a determination based on sales of Milk-Bone products. Atkinson noted that Charlie's mother happened to be a shopper at the Stater Bros. Yorba Linda store.

This year Milk-Bone, a division of Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods, Inc., is sponsoring 50 dogs for recipients across the country. Stater Bros., which has participated in the program for the past four years, usually sponsors one to two dogs annually, according to Atkinson. The sponsorship includes buying the dog, extensive training for the dog and recipient, and lifelong veterinary services, totaling more than $10,000.

Canine Assistants, a nonprofit organization founded in 1991, trains dogs to assist children and adults with physical disabilities and/or other special needs. Canine Assistants dogs are golden retrievers or labradors that are raised at the organization’s facilities.

Stater Bros., the largest privately owned supermarket chain in Southern California, currently operates 160 supermarkets and has over 16,000 employees.
-- Bridget Goldschmidt
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