LDC News

  • Read the April 2, 2012 press release here.
  • Click here to read a prior press release about the event.
  • Click here to learn more about our event.

Our History

Founded by three Detroit area Lions Clubs’ members in 1939, Leader Dogs for the Blind® provides dog guides to people who are blind and visually impaired, for the purpose of  enhancing their mobility, independence and quality of life. Since that time, they have assisted over 14,000 people in achieving the freedom of safe and independent travel.

Each year over 270 students attend a Leader Dogs for the Blind 26-day residential training program to be paired with a dog guide. This is a life-changing event that opens the doors to independence, safety and self-worth for these students. The breeding, raising and training of a dog and student costs approximately $40,000 per dog.

One of the Leader Dogs for the Blind® graduates is Scottsdale’s own Joe Nessinger. It was Joe’s dream and desire to create a way to raise funds to help others who are visually impaired. Thanks to Joe’s efforts, the first Leader Dogs Classic was held in January 1987. As the founder, Joe not only had the desire to provide other visually impaired persons a Leader Dog companion, he also wanted to help educate the public on blindness and that life of a visually impaired person could still be enjoyed through recreational golf. In 1991, Joe won the World Blind Golfers Championship and in 1999, Leader Dogs Classic, Inc. organization was incorporated in Arizona.

Joe Nessinger passed away on May 13, 2009. Joe’s dedication and commitment to enhancing the lives of the visually impaired will long be appreciated and remembered.  And his unselfish support for the Leader Dogs Classic shall remain as an inspiration to us all.

Since 1987, the Leader Dogs Classic has continued to grow in size, contribution, and reputation. All of the events that take place during the annual Classic are under the direction of a Board of Directors. Traditionally, the Board begins planning each September for the following year’s Classic. The Board Members are soon joined by both new and returning committee chairpersons as well as other committee volunteers.

Charitable organizations, such the Leader Dogs Classic, are primarily dependent on three types of contributors for their success: volunteers, sponsors and participants. The Leader Dogs Classic has been very fortunate over the years to have received excellent support from all three. For more information on how you and your organization might become one of the Classic’s valued contributors, please visit our Sponsorships page.