LAKEWOOD RANCH — Chris McNamee’s vision loss started when he was just 28 years old.
But it wasn’t until about five years ago he truly began to fear ordinary tasks such as walking through the airport or getting dropped off at the grocery store.
By then, his vision had diminished so severely that the thought of walking in any public place unescorted terrified him.
That’s when Chris McNamee and his wife, Lynn, enlisted the help of Southeastern Guide Dogs, an internationally accredited guide dog training school that provides guide dogs to the visually impaired at no cost to recipients.
After spending 26 days on the school’s campus in Palmetto, Chris McNamee came home with a new outlook on life — an independent one.
“Their tagline is, ‘The Gift of Mobility,’ and that really says a lot,” Chris McNamee said of the school.
Now, three years later, Chris’s guide dog, Max, has become such an integral and important part of the family that Chris and Lynn have moved to the East County from Kohler, Wis., and have built their new home in The Lake Club — quite literally — with Southeastern Guide Dogs in mind.
On May 16-23, before the couple has even moved into their new home, they first are opening it to the public for viewing during their In the Doghouse Showcase Home event, a fundraiser for the school.
“Our main focus and our goal is to raise funds and awareness for Southeastern Guide Dogs,” Lynn McNamee said, noting all proceeds benefit the school. “We’re really grateful for them.”
Tickets cost $20 online at www.4paws2guide.com or at the door. Entry for children 12 and under is free. Guide dog puppies-in-training will be onsite, and attendees can even participate in raffles to win items such as an eye exam, light fixtures and other household items, an iPod, cooking classes, restaurant gift certificates and more.
Each ticket also reserves its owner a chance to name a Southeastern Guide Dog puppy.
Chris McNamee received Max in March 2007. And it wasn’t long before he and Lynn returned to the area to see if it might be a location at which they could retire. At the time, they also attended a Southeastern Guide Dog graduation, where they witnessed the gratitude of other guide dog recipients. Seeing the impact Southeastern was having on other families, as well as their own, made the decision simple.
“You can’t not be affected by those stories,” Chris McNamee said. “We really felt a calling to be close to the school.”
The couple met Mark Miller of Westwater Construction and began working on plans for their new 3,700-square-foot home, knowing the whole time they wanted to use it to help the school.
Lynn McNamee, an interior designer, has been designing the home for the last two years, working hard to give the home a true Tuscan feel and look while incorporating as much green technology as possible and special features for the visually impaired.
It features stone floors, a working brick-fired oven, a bocce court and a stained-glass dome ceiling in the dining room. To promote green living, the couple has installed all LED lighting, a waterless urinal and other features. To accommodate Chris’ vision impairment, the foundations of the home were laid at different levels so there are level transitions from room to room, and there’s also a built-in dog-watering station for Max, which is built into the wall so Chris McNamee won’t trip over it, among other features.
“The bottom line is we really wanted a handmade craftsman feel,” Lynn McNamee said.
For information about Southeastern Guide Dogs, visit www.guidedogs.org.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
IN THE DOGHOUSE SHOW HOME EVENT
WHEN: Noon to 5 p.m., Sundays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, May 16-23
ADDRESS: 16107 Clearlake Ave., Lakewood Ranch
BENEFITS: Southeastern Guide Dogs
COST: $20. Free for children under 12