Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and his wife Lorrie delighted more than 180 guests at an intimate benefit for Guide Dogs for the Blind (http://www.guidedogs.com) in March. “Come Fly with Us”, at Birnam Wood Golf Club in Montecito raised more than $52,000 to support veterinary care and programs in the Santa Barbara Tri-county Area. Twenty-two Guide Dog puppies are currently being raised in the homes of local volunteers, and 24 area residents who are blind or visually impaired are partnered with dogs from the national nonprofit.
The Sullenbergers have been involved with Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) for more than 20 years. Their daughters have raised two Guide Dog puppies, and the couple has been volunteer breeder custodians to four GDB dogs; their current dog Fame was present at the event. Their third, a yellow Lab named Twinkle, was described affectionately by Lorrie as “my beloved”, “my rock” – the dog that got her through tough moments when the Sullenbergers’ world changed forever in 2009.
Sully, a now-retired pilot who is currently a CBS News Aviation & Safety Consultant as well as public speaker, recounted how he successfully piloted US Airways Flight 1549 to land on the Hudson River off Manhattan, and, with the help of his crew, saved the lives of all 155 passengers. He expressed gratitude for his good fortune and told the audience he’d made a promise to use the ensuing spotlight of media attention in ways that would do the greatest good. “And what better way to make a difference than to support Guide Dogs for the Blind,” he said. As a safety expert, Sully is keenly aware of the importance of safe travel, and what that means for someone who is blind or visually impaired.
“A lot of people have called my husband courageous for what he did on January 15, 2009,” Lorrie said, “But it also takes a lot of courage to step off the curb in a busy city if you’re blind. I know people who are blind are able to do this with confidence because of the training they and their Guide Dogs have received and the incredible bond they share. The magic of Guide Dogs for the Blind is they match just the right dog with just the right person. We are so proud to play even a small role in this special relationship.”