27 Mar

Renfrew-area man remembered for passionate support of guide dogs

Keith McDonald was popular advocate, role model for visually impaired

Keith McDonald never let his disability get in the way of living a full life.

The visually impaired Admaston/Bromley resident was a popular figure as he roamed around Renfrew led by a guide dog. In the spring he was a common sight with his table set up at local grocery stores raising money for the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind.

McDonald died March 23 in his home at the age of 63 after a long battle with cancer.

In appreciation for the guide dogs — Que, Jasper, Murphy and Flora — he received from the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind starting in 1996, he faithfully collected pledges every year for the Walk for Guide Dogs. The annual walk, in which McDonald participated in for many years, is held at Andrew Hayden Park in Ottawa and is a key fundraiser for the cause (this year’s walk is being moved from May to Sept. 15).

Guide Dogs spokesman Steve Doucette said the personable McDonald raised $31,000 for the organization through pledges and other initiatives in conjunction with the Renfrew Lions Club of which he was a member. McDonald was appreciative the guide dogs helped give him his independence back, Doucette said, adding the money and awareness he raised for the organization was greatly appreciated.

He called McDonald’s pledges unique as instead of being mostly from family, friends and colleagues, his were from a “mish-mash” of individuals, businesses and the general community” of Renfrew.

“The sense we got is that everyone knew Keith,” Doucette added, noting when the organization received queries from the Renfrew area invariably the caller mentioned McDonald. He said people usually know the names of guides dogs but not so much the person with them. “But Keith was such a nice fellow, everyone knew his name too.”

While receiving considerable praise for his fundraising, McDonald was never shy in sharing the credit with his many Renfrew and area supporters.

He was also an advocate for other disabled residents, serving as a member of the Renfrew County accessibility advisory committee, a group he chaired for a time.

He was a volunteer with the Canadian Institute for the Blind and made countless presentations at local schools spreading awareness about visual impairment and the role of guide dogs.

 

Despite his impairment, he enjoyed sports and the outdoors, organizing a blind hockey team that raised money for charity and a program that allow visually impaired people to go fishing with experienced anglers.

Keith Thomas McDonald is survived by his wife Lynnda Laviolette, daughter Christie-Ann and two grandchildren. He was predeceased by his son Samuel.

A memorial visitation has been scheduled for Thursday, March 28 from 2-4, 7-9 p.m. at the Goulet Funeral Home in Renfrew. Donations in his memory may be made to the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind.

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