Dog fitness trainer Dustin Metzler and his 34 canines will seek to put food on the plates of less-fortunate Mauians this holiday season with a fundraiser run this weekend.
"With Thanksgiving around the corner a lot of people run to raise money," said Metzler, who owns Pooch Fit. "I thought it would be unique to have my dogs do the same thing for the Maui Food Bank."
Metzler, who manages a dog walking and exercise business out of his Olinda home, will run a total of 26 miles Saturday and Sunday in the "Pooch Fit Dogs Care" benefit run. Each dog will run a mile in groups of one to three.
Dog walker and trainer Dustin Metzler poses for a photo with Cooper, his client Leslie Yokouchi’s dog, last week. Metzler will be holding a two-day, fundraiser marathon this weekend with proceeds going to the Maui Food Bank.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
He is asking local businesses and residents to participate in the run and to donate a dollar or two per mile per dog.
"I've contacted all my clients, and they all loved the idea of having their dog do something positive for the community," said Metzler, who has 24 clients. "I had this ambitious idea to do a really big (fundraiser), but it was too overwhelming so I kept it simple. We're just trying to get the word out."
He decided to donate the proceeds to the Maui Food Bank, which serves about 10,000 people a month - 40 percent of them children.
"I contacted the Maui Food Bank the other day, and they're thrilled about it; it's really a unique way to raise money," he said.
The inspiration for the fundraiser came from Metzler's association with Seabury Hall, where his wife, Stephanie, teaches Spanish. He said their community work at the school craft fair and with a student-run philanthropy club helped inspire him.
"I know they do a lot of work in the community; much of it happens without an expectation of any recognition," he said. "The value the school places on giving to others really inspired an average guy like me to figure out a unique way to also make a positive impact on our island."
For the past couple weeks, Metzler has been calling businesses and doing radio advertisements with some success, though he has not found too many runners to help him out.
As part of the fundraiser, Metzler will pick up the dogs from their owners' homes and run in their area. Although he has no designated route, he plans to begin running around 6:30 a.m. on both days and focus on Kihei and Central Maui owners Saturday, and Upcountry ones Sunday.
One of his Upcountry clients, Leslie Yokouchi of Kula, has three dogs participating in the event and has been using Metzler's service since March. Yokouchi has been helping by campaigning for more donations using social media websites, though, she will not be running in the fundraiser.
"My dogs have been getting in shape, not me," she said laughing. "Hopefully, every year this can grow bigger and bigger. That would be awesome."
Metzler, 34, started his business in August of last year, and it has taken off. Originally from Indiana, he came up with the business concept after volunteering at the Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation's animal shelter in Kihei. While training for the Maui Marathon, he cared for and exercised dogs for four months.
"The neatest thing about that experience was to see 10 or 15 dogs run up to the fence ready and excited to go on a run," he said.
For his business, Metzler runs nearly three dozen dogs and a total of about 10 to 12 miles a day, though he does not own a dog himself because of rental restrictions.
"This is how I get my dog fix," he said.
To make donations, checks should be made to Maui Food Bank and sent to Pooch Fit, P.O. Box 880858, Pukalani 96788. For more information and to participate in the run, call Metzler at 359-1626 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.