Thursday, April 24, 2014
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And now a word from our sponsor ...

The inspiration behind Sparkle: An athletic, determined young man who carried a song in his heart.

And now a word from our sponsor ...

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Here's Timothy C. "Timbo" McWilliams Jr., with his special friend Sweetie. Timbo died at age 27, three years after suffering a traumatic brain injury. There's a foundation in his name dedicated to helping others. (Photo courtesy of Timbofund.org, Debbie McWilliams)

A little while back, I came across the inspiration behind the name "Sparkle" for our Seeing Eye pup. It's a bittersweet, touching story that I'd like to share with you:

Sparkle was sponsored by timbofund.org, a foundation created in memory of Timothy C. "Timbo" McWilliams Jr., a New Jersey resident who passed away three years after suffering a traumatic brain injury. Timbo, who played lacrosse at Lehigh University, was only 27 when he died in 2005. After brain surgery and a week in a coma, he had eventually recovered well enough to return to work and resume his passions of surfing and playing lacrosse. Unfortunately, Timbo died in a single-car accident after suffering an apparent seizure.

Throughout Timbo's arduous recovery, he was accompanied by a young black Lab named Sweetie.  After his accident, when his father told him he could have anything  in the world, he said he just wanted a black Lab.  According to Timbo's mother, Debbie McWilliams, Sweetie "spent the next year of her life sleeping, walking and eating with Timbo every step of his way through recovery.  She would walk in front of him when he was going down steps and behind him when he would go up.  She would bark to let me know if he was 'walking the halls'  as he was restless during this long recovery.  Though she wasn't a Seeing Eye dog, she was our family's 'healing heart dog.'"

After Timbo died, a close friend sponsored a Seeing Eye dog in his name. Debbie continues: "We loved this idea so much - Sweetie became my constant companion and knowing how she helped us as a family made us think we would like to sponsor a dog yearly through the foundation we started in his name.  Sparkle is our 5th dog and she was named by timbo's friend Jill.  I believe it is from a song by Phish named 'Sparkle.' In the song, there is a lyric about driving in the car with Jill and that was their song."

Each year at the annual fund-raiser, there's a silent auction, and naming the next dog is always one of the favorite events of the evening, Debbie says.  Jill won the auction and selected "Sparkle" as the name for the next sponsored pup.

Tears are literally welling in my eyes as I write this. I feel so honored to play just a small part in this incredible human-canine chain of helping and caring. I can promise Timbo this much:  We are doing our very best to ensure that Sparkle succeeds as a Seeing Eye dog and fulfills her own destiny of life-changing service to a blind person.

George Carter
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About this blog
George Carter, The Inquirer's weekend national/foreign editor, has always counted dogs among his closest companions. According to family lore, he learned to walk by clinging to the side of a saintly patient mutt named Spanker. In turn, one of his earliest hazy memories is of tossing treats to the family dogs gathered expectantly on the porch of their Maryland farmhouse. It was only natural then, that when George saw a newspaper ad looking for families to raise puppies for the Seeing Eye of Morristown, N.J., he bit at the chance. From the start, it has been a family project, with teenage daughter Betsy as the official puppy-raiser. First there was Porter, a big-hearted yellow Lab born on Memorial Day 2004. A few years later, the Carters raised Velma, a gorgeous Lab/golden cross. Just a couple weeks ago, Velma's 7-week-old daughter Sparkle arrived as the latest family charge. George, Betsy and mom Cathy are thrilled that Sparkle is from Velma's very first litter. You can reach George Carter at 215-854-2411 or by clicking here. Reach George at gcarter@phillynews.com.

George Carter
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