November 4, 2022

Episode 314: Take the Lead Provides Health and Disaster Assistance for AKC Agility Handlers

In this episode (23:52)

In this episode, we talk with Paul Campanella and Tom Bradley about the non-profit Take the Lead. “Take the Lead was established in 1993 to provide direct services, support and care for those in the purebred dog community who were facing the devastating challenges of life-threatening or terminal illness. In addition, we are now able to provide assistance in cases of civil disasters.”

You Will Learn

  • The story behind Take the Lead.
  • How to apply for assistance from Take the Lead.
  • How you can contribute to Take the Lead.
  • A sneak peek into the 10th Anniversary of the Masters Agility Championship at Westminster!


(upbeat pop music begins) - Welcome to Bad Dog Agility, (dog woofs) a podcast helping you reach all of your dog agility goals. Whether it's competing under the bright lights of the televised finals at Westminster, or successfully navigating a homemade course in your own backyard, we'll bring you training tips, interviews and news about the great sport of dog agility. Are you ready? - I'm ready. - I'm ready. -

I'm ready! - The show starts with your hosts, Jennifer, Esteban, and Sarah. - I'm Esteban. - And I'm Sarah. And this is episode 314. Today's podcast is brought to you by and the new Teeter "Teach It", an easy to use tool that controls the amount of tip on your teeter so you can introduce motion to your dog in a gradual way. Go to for the new

Teeter "Teach It" and other training tools and toys. Use discount code BDA10 to get 10% off your order. That's Today we're talking with Paul Campanella and Tom Bradley about the nonprofit Take the Lead. And for those of you who have listened to our podcast many times before, you may recognize Paul's name as, um, one of the the people in charge of Westminster, the Westminster Master's Agility Championship.

But he's here to talk to us about another role that he has which is the current treasurer for this nonprofit. But for those of you interested in Westminster we will have just a little bit of Westminster News at the end of the podcast as well. And then Tom Bradley is one of the founders of take, Take the Lead and the current Vice President. So, um, let's start out

guys by just, tell us what Take the lead is, tell us what your mission is for this nonprofit. - Well, thanks a lot. This is Tom took- speaking and and we started to Take the Lead in 1993. It was an interesting conception because it actually was begun with a little white lie. There was a young man in the sport who was ill and called me and asked me

if I could help pay his health insurance. I asked him how much it was and what was it for. And it turned out that he said I have AIDS and I can't pay my health insurance. I said, how much is it? And he told me, and I called two more friends. We that, but they both said yes. We called him back and said, send us the bill. We

will pay your health insurance for a year. Later, he died in a, but in, in, in a hospital in and under very good care. People knew we had done this and, and suggested that we should start something that would cover the whole fancy. That's hard to do, and I, I put it off saying that we were weekend friends, not, we don't know what anybody does Monday through Friday

we only see each other on dog shows and on the weekend. That of course, as you know, has changed a lot. The dog shows are every day you want to go to one uh, somewhere in this country. So I received a, a phone call one, one evening from a young lady who had been pushing this and she said "I just spoke to Pat Lawrence and Pat Lawrence says

that she will be the Vice Chairman if you'll be the Chairman and we're gonna call it Take the Lead. We're gonna help people in the sport who have life threatening and terminal illnesses." I said, this is a lot of pressure. Pat Lawrence was on the board of AKC. She was a teacher full-time. She showed dogs, she bred dogs, she judged dogs. So I thought to myself, well, if

Pat can do it, I can do it. So I said, yes. The girl then made another call. She called Pat Lawrence and she said "I just got off the phone with Tom. He will be the chairman. If you will be the Vice President" Pat said "(indistinct grumbling) blank, blank, blank, okay, we'll do it." And that was the beginning. Uh, we had, there were a group of nine of

us. We had never had anything more than, in those days, probably telephone conversations. We hosted an event at Westchester in September of 1993. And we had never had a meeting. We had a little cocktail party. We, we could, we could do that much. We raised $35,000 and had our first meeting the next day. Much to our surprise, um, we, we thought, I I guess I headed the meeting,

said, look at, somebody thinks we're serious and so we've gotta get ourselves organized. And in the, in that bunch of nine people somebody raised their hand and said my uncle's a, is an attorney in Delaware. He can get us incorporated with somebody else. And my cousin's an accountant in Tarrytown. He can get us in, he can take care of that. It rolled that quickly. And so we, we

had our $35,000 and we actually had our first case that year, and I think we spent about $6,000 on that, on that particular client. So that just led like anything else does to A more people on your board and B more things that you can do. We had, we had clubs around the country were holding events to benefit us and, and the, our, our funds grew rapidly. I

think, speaking of funds, I wanna say this. We, we have never gone outside of the sport to raise funds. We have no federal money, no state money. Everything comes from within the sport or associated to the sport. Certainly a number of the kennel clubs have been very generous. Certainly the dog food manufacturers, certain- certainly the superintendents but that's all people within the sport. We uh, at, at, at

the end of last year, we had distributed close to 8 million dollars in those nearly 30 years. How do you get this money and what do you, what do we do with this money? I think the important thing is that we cover that- anyone who participates in AKC events and what the person does is, is- to qualify you have to be in the sport for five years. You

can be in the sport for five years in any form. You can be an assistant handler. You can be your own, just a, you show your pet. If you can show you've been involved in the sport to some degree, then you may apply for assistance. It's a very lengthy application. It's about 10 pages long and it's very personal. We, we ask for your past tax return. We ask

for doctor's letters. We, uh, we get people who have people who have known you in the sport to prove you're, you're valid. We, we never, we do that, but we rarely, rarely question anybody who applies for assistance. And, and what happens is, is, has happened in many cases and of course it continues to happen, is that um, uh, individual A is ill. Let's say they, they have cancer

of some sort. And they're, they're, they're- they have doctor's bills, they may have hospital bills, they have reoccurring health- reoccurring bills to, to assist their chemo or, or whatever it might be. And they've used their funds, they've gone to their family they've used the family's funds, they've mortgaged the house, they've gone to- they've done all these things. And then they come to AK to Take the Lead. We

want them to come first to us. And what we do is, is, is then the, the prospective client makes a list of what their most important financial needs are. And it's always, often the mortgage, it's always second the car. And, and it continues. We get, we get a variety of almost humorous ones sometimes which we can say no to. We don't do that. But then the committee, once

this is, once the application comes in and the the documentation comes with it, it goes to the committee of three, those three people review it and say, okay, we can, we can pay A, we can pay C we can pay S, but we can't do the other three. That's out of our, our, our, our terms of, of, of ability, or financial ability or, or even it's what- we

don't pay for things like that. We don't pay rent to the client's sister cuz she rents their house. That's family. That's their job. Not my job, not our job. So it, it weeds out pretty quickly. But because AIDS was the impetus, we were known as the AIDS group. And that was, that was a plus and it was a negative, because they, "oh, they, they don't help me because

I've got a broken leg." "They don't help me because I was in a car accident." Yes, we do. So we quickly changed it to life-threatening or terminal illnesses. And- - So Tom, sorry, I just wanna break in here for just a minute and, and clarify for people. Um, so what it sounds like is that this is really assistance for the humans. It's not like you are there just

to help take care of, of the dogs, but it's like, if you are part of the fancy, if you are part of AKC, you know, either through obedience, or agility or confirmation, then and, and something happens so that you are struggling, you, the human are struggling that you are there to help the human part of the team. You're there to help financially, you know the human with their

medical bills or mortgage or whatever it is that is, that they're struggling with because of this, you know, big disaster that has happened in their life. - That's exactly correct. You said it much better than I did. (chuckles) I've lived with this too long. I, I assume that people know that we do not ha- we do not pay veterinarian bills. We, we, we can't pay for a C-section.

We, we don't have anything to do with dogs. They are the only, they're the venue that got you to, to where you are today as a participant. And, and, so along those lines, we have we have two applications at the moment. The second application is, is an emergency. What do you do with floods, fires, windstorms, tornadoes, snow, which they live- our country- if you live where I live.

Then it's, um, that's a separate application. It's a, it's a much easier application. It's about a two or three page application. That comes in again with some documentation, and then that goes to a second committee and they, they have a, they can pay up to $5,000. And what normally it is, is in case it floods, fires, we, we can't build your house, we can't buy you a new

car. We, but we, we can, we can repair damages, we can buy you new fencing, we can buy dog supplies, we- crates, rooming tables, things like that. But again, it's all documented. Has to be, has to be documented. And this, I need to be very clear, cuz I don't think I have been, you submit the bill. The bill gets approved and we pay the bill. We, we do

not pay the client ever. It's, it's against our, our, our, our tax laws, first of all. We could lose our 501(c)(3), certain clarification if, if we paid individuals. So then that leads to taxes. - Yeah. So that makes it important for people to, to know enough about, just to know that this exists. So that if they are suddenly in a situation that, that they can come to you,

like you said, come to you first rather than, you know, so that you can actually do something about it, rather than, after you've kind of recovered then looking at talking to you guys. Cuz at that point for you it's too late. - Well yes, that's right. And and it makes it more difficult. If you have 10 months mortgage cuz you haven't paid your mortgage in 10 months. Don't

come to me in the other, then, come to me in this first year when we will pick up your mortgage in the beginning. That allows you to have your own cash which you would've paid for the mortgage to, to do the other basic things that you need in life. - Hi, sorry, this is Paul and I just wanna chime in here a little bit. Again, thanks for letting

us on today. We found that, you know, for the most part, the confirmation community really knew who Take the Lead was. But outside that community agility, obedience, they didn't. And we wanted to bring some awareness about the organization, that these, this assistance is available to, you know, everyone within the sport of dogs. Like Tom said, you know, a five year history within the sport is required. And again,

this is completely anonymous. If you submit a request for assistance through Take the Lead, nobody will ever find out about this. So, you know, we want people to come forward before they're in dire financial straits and come to us for assistance. - And we were talking beforehand, and it, it sounds like it's, it's definitely evolved from, you know, the beginnings, as Tom was saying, $30,000 in, in their

first year, and now having millions of dollars available to help people. And it started out very focused on the idea of a health crisis and has now expanded to include natural disasters, which of course, you know, we see those as being hugely impactful in our sport. I, I suppose like medical things are very one person specific, but then we will see these, you know, hurricanes come through and

you've got an entire, you know section of the fancy that's, that is getting hit with this all at the same time, and everybody is kind of scrambling trying to figure out how to help each other and how to, you know, give people places to stay and, and help with their dogs and things like that. So I think it's really great that y'all have expanded it to include those

kinds of emergencies, or like you had mentioned, like car crashes, things like that. Things that we just can't plan for very well and can, can really, um, really affect a person and, and what they're able to do. - Absolutely. And that's thanks to the dog community. I mean this is all funded by the dog fancy itself. You know, we have fundraisers at individual dog shows. We sell some

merchandise here and there, and then there's memberships through Take the Lead where you can buy a membership and you get a pin that shows you're, you're supporting the organization. And this, again, this is all funded by people within the dog show community for people within the dog show community. - I'm, I'm really glad you mentioned that because that'll give our listeners um, kind of two ways to approach

this. On the one hand, if you need help, like you know now about this and we'll have links on the show notes page for that. But if you like the mission of Take the Lead, if you, if you wanna know how you can help, this is a great organization that has a, a 30 year established history of helping people that you can donate to and you know, be

a part of in that way. - Right. That would, that would be great. You know, our purpose again here to do is today is to just raise awareness within the agility community that this assistance is available for, for people that may be in need. And we want, you know, spread the word throughout the agility community. You know, if you have somebody that you know, take them aside and

say, listen, there's this organization that may be able to help you with A, B or C. Well, you know whether you have cancer or whatever it may be. - Yeah, I like pointing out the two-pronged approach there, Sarah, because, well certainly with the podcast we can get the word out to the agility community. People who hear it can tell other people. And so this can be on, on

people's minds when things like this happen. But I also like the idea that a lot of our listeners are going to want to contribute. Because one of the things about the agility community, specifically, is they're very, very tight. So when things happen, there are always fundraisers, and people who you can get in touch with. But a lot of that, once it moves outside of your immediate circle, you

may not know the players involved. People wanna help, but they're worried about where the money's gonna go, how reliable is GoFundMe, that sort of thing. And I like this idea of having a, a larger organization where everything is vetted, and I think they're gonna be people who are going to be very interested in contributing. - Great. Glad to hear it. - Alright, well we will be sure to

put the links in the show notes for both how to get assistance and how to donate. And then as promised, actually just this morning as we are taping this, I got the email in my inbox about next year's Westminster and this I, I had lost track of time. I didn't realize this was gonna be the 10th anniversary for us agility people. - Wow. - You know? Yeah. The

10th Master's Agility Championship. So Paul, why don't you tell us a little bit about the changes for the upcoming year. What's, what's exciting, what's going on with Westminster for 2023? - Sure will do. And I'm as surprised as you are to know that this is 10 years. I can't believe it's gone by that fast. Yeah. So this year, we're happy to be partnering with the US Tennis Center,

the home of the US Open in Flushing Meadows, Queens. It's a great venue. We'll be in the Arthur Ash Stadium, which actually has a capacity of 23,000 people. I don't know that we'll nearly fill that many, but fingers crossed. But we have the opportunity to have, you know, this larger space. Again, we'll have, you know, two preliminary rounds earlier in the day. and we will go down to

50 dogs, and the agility trial will be held on May 6th, 2023 and will be televised on May 7th, Sunday, at noon on the Fox Broadcast Network. As it's our 10th anniversary we're pleased to bring back our first year's judges which are Lori Sage and Andrew Decker. I thought that would be a fun thing to have. They had great chemistry the first year and we're glad to have

'em back to celebrate the 10th anniversary. We'll be having some special treats and stuff for the 10, 10, 10 year anniversary for our exhibitors and we'll let people know about them soon as those details are finalized. But we're happy to be partnered with the tennis center and I think it's gonna be a great venue. - Do you know when the premium is coming out? Cuz you know, people

have to be on top of their entries for Westminster? - Yeah, absolutely. We're probably looking at February for the premium list to come out, 2023. And we will contact everybody on our, um, mailing list and they can go to the as well to get updates on the premium list. - That is awesome and exciting. So is it okay for me to ask like, is it gonna be

two rings again and preliminary and then they, you're gonna choose one of those rings for the final all in the same place? Or is it gonna be in different- - Yeah, we'll be at the same place. They'll be one ring that'll be outside under a large tent, similar to what we had at Lindhurst. It'll be on, on turf. And then we'll be in the actual tennis center, where

they play the men's and women's finals right in that main ring for the finals at night. - Interesting. That is very, very cool. And so then, so if one is covered, then what what happens if it's like pouring rain? Because I know that that's happened before - It's covered in large tent with sides and everything so we're good to go. And then the addition, the other ring, the

preliminary bring will be in Arthur Ash Stadium, which we have the opportunity either to leave the ceiling opened or closed which could be interesting. - Interesting. So spectators then are going to be able to watch both preliminaries and finals? - Correct. Yeah, we'll have two separate tickets once again like we did back- - Okay. - When we were up here in '94. You'll have a daytime ticket and

you'll have a nighttime ticket for the finals in Arthur Ash. - But that, it sounds like compared to, um, compared to like Pier 94, that, like, the capacity is, is way more for in terms of spectators - Way, way more, way more- - Like it's not gonna sell out. - No, it's not likely to sell out. We should be able to have a great spectator experience both daytime

and nighttime. - Oh, that's exciting. Cuz it, it really is a huge spect- I mean the spectators are part of what make Westminster Westminster in, in my opinion. You know, they're so excited. There's so many local people, you know, people show up, they love watching the dogs, they're impressed by everything. It's, it's really a lot of fun having so many spectators there who are not part of the

agility community. You know, like at Nationals we have spectators but it's basically us spectating ourselves, you know, the, the- - Sure. - You know, competitors spectating themselves, but here, you know, you have true spectators. It's a lot of fun. - Absolutely. And there's plenty of access from subways and railroad train to directly to the Arthur Ash. So you're gonna get a lot of people coming in for the

day from the city. And you know, as it is on a Saturday, we're, we're planning on having it as a quote, unquote where we'll have some additional events that we're looking into. So we're planning on making it, you know, a fun day for spectators. - Yeah. I think this is a bigger deal than maybe some people are thinking in their head because- okay, may- maybe you don't fill

23,000 seats the very first year but, uh, the first word that popped up in my mind was crust. - That's exactly what I thought. I thought this is step in that direction. - What does this look like five years from now, right? - Exactly. - What kinda crowds are you bringing in? What is the impact on your contracts with broadcast networks and things like that, right? - Sure,

sure. Yeah. Yeah. So we've, we've, we're planning on being at the tennis center for at least three years. We've signed a three year contract with them and- - Okay. - Awesome. - We're hoping to make this our permanent home. - Excellent. - That is super exciting. - I love the little tidbit about the judges too. I, I, I wouldn't have- - That's really good. - I wouldn't have

noticed that I don't think if you hadn't pointed out. So I love it. I love it. - Yep. - Alright, well thank you so much Paul for joining us and letting us know about Westminster. And thank you for bringing us Tom. And thank you Tom for letting everybody know about this fantastic organization, Take the Lead. And we're really happy to be helping you get the word out in

the agility community about what y'all do and, and how it can help the dog agility community. So thanks Tom. - Thank you so much. Come see us at the Westminster booth. - Oh, I think that'll happen. I think we'll be there. We'll come say hi. - I have to say come see us at the Take the Lead booth at Westminster. - Perfect. All right, well thank you so

much. And that is it for this week's podcast. We'd like to thank our sponsor, Happy training! (upbeat pop music begins) - Thank you for listening to Bad Dog Agility. We hope you enjoyed today's episode. For more information, updates, and links to all our socials, just check out our website, If you haven't already signed up for our email subscription, we would love to have you join the

BDA community. Until next time, take care. (upbeat pop music fades)

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