By Deron Hamel
Epilepsy Durham Region has provided 1,900 Lora the Lavender Labrador soft plush charity dogs to Durham Region first responders to help build strong connections with local police, fire and ambulance services, as well as to raise epilepsy awareness.
The Lora dogs were presented to first responders during a Dec. 17 ceremony at the Region of Durham headquarters in Whitby. Responders will now distribute the soft Lora dogs when tending to people in traumatic situations to help provide a measure of comfort.
Epilepsy Durham Region community outreach associate Chelsea Kerstens says it’s crucial for epilepsy agencies to develop strong relationships with local first responders because police, fire and ambulance services are often the bridge that connects people who have epilepsy and require information or services with epilepsy support agencies.
“The hope is that with the first responders understanding a little bit more about epilepsy and more about the community agencies that are available to clients, they will be able to connect with us quicker and ultimately learn more about living with epilepsy and all the pieces that come along with community epilepsy agencies,” Kerstens tells Voices of Epilepsy.
The Lora dogs were created through Paws for a Cause, a 12-month Epilepsy Durham Region fundraising campaign that was launched in December 2018.
Each Lora the Lavender Labrador has a tag with information about why the charity dogs were created along with contact information to connect people with Epilepsy Durham Region. The dogs also feature an awareness ribbon and the words “epilepsy matters” on one paw.
Kerstens says Epilepsy Durham Region also donated the dogs to help the agency recognize the efforts first responders are putting forth to help people with seizure disorders and others facing emergency situations.
“(The Lora dogs are) also a mechanism for us to say thank you and to recognize their efforts so that they have something that they can give out to provide comfort because that, in turn, provides them with a little bit of comfort as well,” she says.
It hasn’t taken long for the Lora dogs to have an impact. The mother of one boy who recently had a seizure sent an e-mail to Epilepsy Durham Region to thank the agency for the Lora dog her son received from a first responder.
“It was such a scary moment for us and Lora helped settle our babe in a scary situation with a lot of strangers near him. I can’t thank you enough!” she wrote.