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Miami University hiking event benefits service animals

Butler County residents and their four-legged friends are encouraged to “take a hike” this weekend as part of Miami University’s annual Hike-A-Thon.

In its 11th year, the event not only offers a chance to experience Miami University Natural Areas, but also to raise funds for 4 Paws for Ability, an organization that provides trained service dogs to people with disabilities.

MORE: Want to raise a future service dog? 4 Paws for Ability needs volunteers who love puppies

“The Natural Areas have been kept a very unintentional secret. It’s 1,000 acres and 17 miles of trails and many people do not even know they exist,” said Jim Reid, field manager for Miami University Natural Areas. “Hike-A-Thon brings awareness to students and to the community about these gifted assets.”

Money will be raised based on the number of miles hiked during the event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23. Hikes of one, three and five miles are available for participants, with the goal a total of 2,000 miles hiked that day.

The event is open to the public and four-legged friends on leashes.

MORE: Miami U. mirrors rising national trend of students using support animals

This year’s Hike-A-Thon will highlight the work of 4 Paws for Ability, an organization committed to enriching the lives of children with disabilities and veterans by providing trained service dogs to increase their independence.

“We wanted to give people a reason to come besides just the walk,” Reid said, adding that a partner organization each year benefits from the event. “We found when we feature a charity, more people come to support the charities.”

There are 20 dogs on the Miami University campus, identified by their vests, paired with students who adopt them and help to socialize them by giving them experience in public.

MORE: Service dog sniffs out local boy’s diabetic problems

Kelly Camm, the development director of 4 Paws, which is based in Xenia, said she is excited the organization was chosen as partner for this year’s Hike-A-Thon Plus.

“We are delighted and humbled to be part of it. We’re thrilled,” she said. “It’s due in part to the Miami University students who do selfless work raising our puppies.”

Miami University senior Sarah Wikum said she looks forward to taking part in this year’s event. She serves as vice president of the campus organization and is now fostering her second dog for 4 Paws.

“I think Hike-A-Thon is great. I love hiking,” she said. “It’s awesome being involved. It’s cool to connect 4 Paws into the community.”

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