ORONO, Maine — A group of University of Maine students who successfully raised money last spring to buy a service dog for a local child with muscular dystrophy is planning another fundraising cookout this year, with three live bands on the UMaine Mall.
Rock the Dog II will be held 4-7 p.m. Thursday, April 30, and will include representatives from the Tail Waggin’ Dog Training Center in Levant and several of the center’s clients and their service dogs.
The first Rock the Dog event was organized last year by H2O — Hart, Hancock and Oak residence halls — and the UM Health Professions Club to raise money to help young Nathan Robichaud of Milford, who uses a wheelchair because of muscular dystrophy, to buy a service dog to help him with his daily needs.
The event, supplemented by bottle drives, raised almost $2,500 toward the purchase of the dog, according to Shirar Wilder Patterson, community coordinator for H2O. Robichaud’s grandparents Mike and Maggie Conary of Milford, who care for him, raised the remaining funds for the purchase and training of the dog through Tail Waggin’ Dog Training Center.
After months of special training, Nathan and the dog, Soren, were united the second week in April.
With the success of their first fundraising initiative, students and staff at H2O and the health professions club set to raising additional money in the fall for their newly created fund, The Nathan Fund, to benefit other children with debilitating illnesses. They raised $800 through a pizza party.
Patterson said proceeds from the next and future Rock the Dog events will go to The Nathan Fund to assist area families with a child or teenager in need of a service dog for emotional or physical disabilities.
The UMaine students initially learned about Robichaud’s need through UMaine health professions career specialist and pre-law adviser Crisanne Blackie, whose son is in Cub Scouts with Robichaud. The students were immediately moved to try to help the child and others like him, Patterson said.
“It’s really neat to see them doing this,” Patterson said. “They’re really coming out for this project.”
Patterson expects as many as 600 students and members of the public to attend the April 30 barbecue fundraiser, possibly including Robichaud and Soren.
Last year’s barbecue theme was a carnival with games and related activities.
“This little boy had so much fun when he came last year,” Patterson said. “He had a blast.”
Donations for The Nathan Fund will be accepted at collection tables during the event.
Bands scheduled to play are The Exclusive, opening for headliners The Sophomore Beat from Southern Maine and co-headliner A Good Night Sound Rush, a Bangor-based group.
Patterson can be reached at 581-9300.