Payton and Harley

Eden Prairie High School senior Payton Borg is pictured with her goldendoodle, Harley.

Payton Borg said she learned about the nonprofit Can Do Canines through her grandfather, Bill McNeely.

Before he died in 2012, McNeely sponsored dogs being trained by Can Do Canines, an organization that provides free assistance dogs to people with disabilities. Borg accompanied him at some of the graduation ceremonies for the dogs he sponsored.

Borg, an Eden Prairie High School senior, said her grandfather loved dogs and was a hands-on donor, often going to personally meet the dogs and the clients they would serve, and interacting with staff.

“I think it was cool for him that he could make a personal contribution and follow up with it rather than writing a check and never seeing it again,” she said.

Over time, Borg also became passionate about the organization thanks to her grandfather’s influence. She’s become trained as an ambassador to spread the word about the nonprofit and she’s also organizing a fundraiser 5K with her family and the Eden Prairie High School Student Council.

“I think it’s just a really cool way for me and my family to honor my grandpa in that way,” she said. “I know he’d be really proud of me for doing this.”

The Can Do Canines “5K9” Walk Run is scheduled for Saturday, May 21, at Round Lake Park in Eden Prairie. The goal of the event is to raise money and awareness of the organization, Borg said.

“Can Do Canines is a remarkable organization,” she said.


Can Do Canines, based in New Hope, has served clients since 1989 and provides dogs to people with mobility challenges, hearing loss/deafness, seizure disorders, diabetes complicated by hypoglycemia unawareness or children with autism. Its dogs are often adopted from local animal shelters. The nonprofit is an accredited member of Assistance Dogs International, according to its website.

“Can Do Canines is the largest provider of assistance dogs in Minnesota and relies on individual contributions to support its important work. It costs on average $25,000 to train and place an assistance dog,” the site states.

Puppies in the program are sent to a volunteer “puppy raiser” or a prison puppy training program. Puppy raisers work with a puppy for six to 18 months and train them in house manners, basic obedience and early assistance dog skills. In the prison program, puppies are raised and trained in obedience and sometimes assistance skills by select inmates, according to Can Do Canines.

Puppies receive final training and assessment at the nonprofit’s facility at 18 months of age. Individual dogs are partnered with a client and they begin training together to make sure they’re a good match, the website said.

“They’re real unique in the fact that they don’t charge to give the dog to the recipient family, which is why it’s so crucial they get donations,” Borg noted.

Borg said she first thought of organizing a 5K in the fall of 2014 and mentioned it to the Student Council. This past summer she decided to move forward with the idea.

The goal is to raise $25,000 so that one dog can be fully sponsored. She’s been contacting different businesses and has been trying to spread word about the event in the community. If people can’t attend the event, they can still make donations online, Borg said.

Borg said the event will include the 5K, exhibitors, food, a Can Do Canines demonstration and a “Doggie Costume Contest.” Attendees are encouraged to bring their dogs with them to walk.

“It’s more just for fun and for people to walk with their dogs and run with their dogs,” she said.

Borg hopes her family will continue to stay involved in future years.

“We want to keep this going and hopefully the Student Council will want to keep it going,” she said.