Courtenay boy aiming for $1,500 to train therapy dogs

Sam Sterk, 7, has raised almost $1,400 in memory of a beloved therapy dog called Faith. He
Sam Sterk, 7, has raised almost $1,400 in memory of a beloved therapy dog called Faith. He's shooting for $1,500 by Feb. 8, which is his next birthday.
— image credit: Photo submitted

A seven-year-old Courtenay boy has raised nearly $1,400 in memory of a therapy dog called Faith.

Shortly after his family's 13-year-old golden retriever passed away in November, Sam Sterk decided to raise money for the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS), where Faith was trained.

"They raise assistance dogs for people with disabilities other than blindness and train therapy dogs to work alongside people who work in health care," Sterk writes on his poster. "These amazing dogs are trained to turn on light switches, help people get dressed, pull wheelchairs, pick things up and be great companions. It takes between $50,000 and $90,000 to train one dog and I would like to help."

Faith worked with Sterk's mom Nicole Burgess, who is a music therapist to a variety of clients in the Valley. Sterk says he was more interested in Faith's role as a family member than the work she did, but after she passed away he decided he wanted to do a fundraiser in her memory.

Sterk's first fundraising idea was to ask his parents and extended family to give him money for Christmas instead of presents. Burgess says the family still gave Sterk some small items but he received significantly less than normal, and than his brother, on Christmas Day.

Sterk also set a donation jar up at the Potters Place, where his grandmother sells the pottery she makes. Sterk has so far raised $1,385.

"I thought I was only able to get like $600," Sterk says with a grin as he points out one non-family member generously donated $700 to his initiative.

His new fundraising goal is $1,500. Donations will be accepted until Feb. 7, as Sterk's birthday is on Feb. 8, and he's doing something special to celebrate it this year.

"Instead of a birthday party he'd like to go over to Vancouver to visit PADS," says Burgess, adding he will hand over the funds when he's there. "Again, instead of presents he's asked his family to donate to PADS instead of buying him gifts."

Burgess adds she and her husband (dance instructor Lindsay Sterk) couldn't be more proud of Sam.

We're "super proud — really, really proud," she says. "Sam's a determined little guy and always has been, but he's really put his mind to this.

"For us as parents that's the cool thing: we've supported Sam, but this is Sam's thing that he's done."

For more information, e-mail Nicole Burgess at Or, to make a donation, stop by the Potters Place at Fifth Street and Cliffe Avenue in Courtenay.

Meanwhile, Sam told his Grade 2 École Puntledge Park class about his PADS fundraiser and his classmates decided to make helping PADS a class I Can project.

The class sent out handwritten letters last week asking veterinary clinics and pet stores in the Comox Valley and Campbell River if they could donate specific items needed to help train the dogs, or money to buy those items. PADS has a wish list on its website, which includes things like puppy leashes and collars, kongs (dog toys) and folding ring gates and ex-pens for puppy play areas.

With help from its Grade 6 buddy class, Sam's class planned to hold a bake and craft sale Wednesday, after the Record's deadline.

Sam will take the wish list items over to PADS when he visits on his birthday, so anyone wishing to donate to the class fundraiser can do so until Feb. 7.

For more information contact teacher Thea Black at or call 250-334-4495.

"Sam has been a real inspiration to the students in our class," says Black. "I am so in awe of how a bunch of seven-year-olds have taken on this amazing 'I can' project and are so passionate about supporting Sam and his cause."

For more information about PADS, visit


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