The specially-trained canine companions of children with disabilities enable their handlers to interact with the world around them and fundraisers were held across the nation on Sunday to ensure more children will have access to the program.

Calgary hosted several of the 240 Canadian walks raising funds for the Dog Guides program. The money collected through pledges and donations will allow the program to continue training dog guides.

The estimated cost of training, raising and placing a dog in its new home is $25,000 and the recipients are not burdened with any of the associated costs.

“The clients just absolutely adore the dogs and the quality of life has changed radically for the better as a result of having a service dog,” said Steve King, a Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides volunteer.

Marco Secretti has autism and his dog Cleo has proven to be more than a pet, she’s his best friend. “She helps me when I get mad,” said Marci. “She cuddles me. Now I get less stressed out because of her.”

Marco’s mother Leanne says Cleo is an asset.

“Marco is able to speak but has a lot of problems with anxiety and regulating his body to stay calm,” explained Leanne. “That’s something that you and I do subconsciously and naturally and he has to think about”

“He needs tools to help himself feel level and in a neutral position.”

Dog guides are offered to people with visual impairments, hearing loss, diabetes, those prone to seizures or other physical disabilities.

For more information, visit Lions Foundation of Canada - Dog Guides.

With files from CTV's Chris Epp