Lorri Bernson and her Seeing Eye Dog Carter
Shortly after 7 p.m. on Monday night at Dodger Stadium, Lorri Bernson threw out the first pitch prior to the Dodgers-San Diego Padres game. Like dozens of other first-pitch honorees before her this season, Bernson was accompanied by family and friends. Only Bernson was joined by her dog who happens to be a seeing eye dog. Bernson at the age of 33 lost about 98% of her vision due to complications fromTtype 1 Diabetes. Because she is blind she received some help during the pitch to ensure that the ball would make it in the direction of the catcher awaiting the ball so the game could officially begin. Ellis talked with her throughout to guide her through the pitch. It was the first time in Dodger Stadium history that a person who has virtually no sight tossed the ceremonial pitch. The pitch bounced once before making it over the late but by having Lorri throw the ball with her Guide Dog at her side it brought awareness to people with disabilities who need help from a canine friend in order to get around. Add to that, Dodger general manager Ned Colletti and the organization itself are the sponsors of Bernson’s guide dog who is named Carter.
According to Colletti when he signed his last contract with the Dodgers he added a clause that he would donate X amount of money to help charities of his choosing and that the Dodgers organization would have to match those donations. He figured that even if he was only able to help one person at a time awareness would be brought to those causes with the help of the organizations PR staff.
On many game days, Colletti also auctions off special items at the tables that can be found throughout Dodger Stadium, with the highest bidder being able to go on the field to meet players and spend some time with the Colletti the GM during the game. All the money raised at these tables goes directly to Guide Dogs of America. Colletti and the Dodger organization have great respect for what they do at Guide Dogs of America. Colletti is in awe of the puppy raisers for the organization who donate months of their time training a puppy and socializing them in order to go onto lives helping people become more independent.
Bernson and her boyfriend Matt Kells went out to the stadium to practice daily for about six weeks, with Bernson wearing her baseball glove and wearing a Dodger blue T-shirt while going through her pitching workout. During that time she was joined on the field by other visually challenged people, guide dog trainers and their puppies. During the game there were more than 300 Guide Dog of America benefactors and beneficiaries in the stands to witness the momentous occasion.