Photo courtesy Blake Baxendell
The fundraising event Walk for Those Who Canít is an annual fundraising walk to support the mission and programs of Carolina Canines.
Pat and Rick Hairston moved to the North Carolina coast from St. Louis two days before Hurricane Fran hit in August 1996. Very quickly, Rick said, he learned the meaning of Southern hospitality. Helping hands reached out in every direction from the coupleís new neighbors to others who Rick said didnít have the slightest idea who they were.
But once the dust had settled, the flooding had subsided and the Hairstons moved on with their everyday lives, they realized there was something missing from their new hospitable communityóa canine service organization, like one they had previously been involved with in St. Louis.
Up until this point, there were no service dog organizations in the entire state.
It was from this realization that Rick said his calling came and the search for his first service pup began. Rick turned to the classifieds one day in December and dialed a number asking about a litter of black labs in Maple Hill, N.C.
When he arrived where the litter was, one cold dreary night, it didnít take 30 seconds, Rick said, before he had chosen the dog heíd name Moses who would later travel more than a half million miles across the U.S. with Rick serving as an ambassador, setting the bar for other pups to come.
"Thatís how we got started with it," Rick said. "It wasnít fancy. It wasnít elaborate."
It wasnít until that fateful Sunday that Carolina Canines, though the organization wasnít yet named, came to be. Before Moses, Rick said, Carolina Canines was just a dream.
"We hadnít put any actions to it," Rick explained, "and literally the minute we picked him up was the minute that Carolina Canines started."
Moses began his work as Rickís service dog, later moving to Florida to serve another man for several years until that manís needs changed and the decision was made that Moses should move back to North Carolina to serve with Rick again as the Carolina Canines ambassador.
Since 1996, more than 40 pups have followed Mosesí lead, living their lives to help others with varying disabilities. From one-on-one work and at-home companionship to other programs that have developed through the years serving veterans, hospital patients and even kids who struggle learning to read, the Hairstons give Moses credit for breathing life into the program that has changed not only their lives but the lives of hundreds of thousands who have been a part of or even just witnessed the compassion only a four-legged pup could bring.
This year, the fifth annual Walk for Those Who Canít fundraising event held at Hugh MacRae Park Saturday, March 26 at 10 a.m., will be dedicated in memory of Moses who passed away earlier this month.
"He was good. He was loyal. He was happy. He was a handful at times," Rick looked back. "Weíre going to make this walk for him."
For Moses, a walk that will make it possible for others to come, a minimum donation of $25 is required to participate. Two dogs are invited to walk with each participant along the 1.5-mile trail. Food and beverages will be available.
To register, visit
www.walkforthosewhocant.org or on site at 9 a.m. on the day of the event.