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Hawai‘i Canines for Independence Valentine’s Benefit

February 2, 2012
The Maui Weekly

The annual benefit event and auction for Hawai'i Canines for Independence (HCI) will be held at Gannon's Restaurant in Wailea on Saturday, Feb. 11. This special evening will feature gourmet cuisine from award-winning Chef Bev Gannon. The dynamic duo Kim Gennaula and Guy Hagi will serve as emcees. Music will be provided by Grammy Award winner George Kahumoku Jr.

The event will include live and silent auctions including jewelry from Tiffany & Co., certificates for inter-island packages and a private catered dinner for eight from Chef Ralph Giles.

Event sponsors are Spencer Homes, Windermere Valley Isle Properties, Bendon Family Foundation, Bank of Hawai'i, and Dorvin and Betty Leis.

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Hawai‘i Canines for Independence will hold its annual benefit event and auction at Gannon’s Restaurant in Wailea on Saturday, Feb. 11.

Hawai'i Canines for Independence is a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization that has been serving children and adults with physical disabilities in Hawai'i for the past 10 years by providing professionally trained Assistance Dogs and lifetime follow up free of charge to people in need.

HCI specializes in training Service Dogs for people with limited mobility. Service Dogs learn over 90 commands and assist their partners by performing tasks such as pulling wheelchairs, opening doors and turning on lights. HCI customizes the training based on each recipient's needs. HCI Service Dogs have learned such specialized skills as a second language (including Japanese and sign language), removing a jump drive from the computer and towing an injured swimmer to shore.

HCI Service Dogs have enhanced, extended and in some cases even saved the lives of their partners. When Melanie Johnson was trapped in a house fire, her Guide/Service Dog "Freedom" brought her the cordless phone and later pulled open the door to let in the firemen. "Freedom is the best dog in the world," said Melanie, "I would not be here today if it weren't for him. He is my hero."

HCI also places Seizure Response Dogs for people with seizure disorders and full-time Facility Dogs at hospitals such as the Rehab Hospital of the Pacific and Kapi'olani Medical Center. HCI Facility Dog "Tucker" brings love and laughter on a daily basis to the children at Kapi'olani.

"Tucker is the best medicine we have," said Dr. Wendi Hirsch, child psychologist and Tucker's full-time handler. "Words can not begin to describe the difference he makes for our patients and their families."

In addition to placing full-time Assistance Dogs, HCI has a growing number of Community Outreach Programs, including weekly Therapy Team visits to local nursing homes and the 'Ohana Program, which benefits groups like the Easter Seals and high school students with special needs. These programs reach hundreds of people with disabilities in our community each week.

HCI is also starting a Courthouse Dog Program for children who are victims of crime; a Wounded Warrior Program, which will provide Assistance Dogs to veterans; and Scent Detection Research in collaboration with Kapi'olani Medical Center to teach dogs to provide early detection of life-threatening medical conditions.

HCI was recently chosen from Assistance Dog programs worldwide to start a pilot program in Japan at a children's cancer hospital. The program has already been a huge success and is being expanded to other hospitals. Interns from around the world also come to Hawai'i to work at the HCI Training Facility and learn the innovative training methods that have earned the organization international recognition.

"We are so thankful for the tremendous community support we have received over the years," said Mo Maurer, HCI founder and executive director. "We feel so blessed to have the opportunity to touch the lives of so many people."

Maurer has worked in the Assistance Dog industry for almost 20 years and has a Master's Degree in Animal Behavior.

"There is an amazing ability that dogs have to help people in need," she said. "We are excited about continuing to develop that potential."

HCI provides its services through donations from individuals, businesses and foundations. For more information, visit or call 298-0167.



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