BRADENTON -- Nathan Albritton and his grandmother know all too well the difference a guide dog can make.
Nathan's uncle, a former solider injured in Iraq, suffers from PTSD but manages thanks to his dog.
"The dogs keeps him calm," grandmother Susan Albritton said. "If he does have a spell, the dog knows what to do."
For 12-year-old Nathan, his uncle's experience has helped teach him the importance of the dogs.
So with their four-legged friend Duke in tow, they hit the pavement on Bradenton's Riverwalk on Saturday to help support an organization that makes it possible for others to receive the life-changing benefits of a guide dog.
When Nathan's school, Haile Middle, decided to participate, Nathan thought it would be good to support to come out and support Palmetto-based Southeastern Guide Dogs so that more soldiers can get a dog of their own.
"We thought it would be a fun time," Nathan said.
And fun is what hundreds of people and their furry friends were having at the second annual Southeastern Guide Dogs Walkathon, which started at the Rossi Waterfront Park and took walkers along the Bradenton Riverwalk.
Proceeds from the fundraiser go to help raise, train, and match guide dogs with those who are visually impaired.
Volunteers, sponsors and community members all came out to support the services and programs that Southeastern Guide Dogs offers, organizer Nina Ionata said.
"We encourage people to bring out their puppies from home as well," Ionata said.
Despite no registration fee, the event was projected to raise about $150,000.
Demonstrating the empowerment of having a guide dog was special guest speaker and Bradenton Beach Mayor William "Bill" Shearon with his guide dog, Reese.
"Thanks to Reese I had the opportunity to be the first visually impaired mayor in Florida," Shearon said. "We got to show the world that being visually impaired is not a disability, it just shows you down a bit."
Shearon introduced the crowd to his companion, Reese, his second guide dog, with whom he spends about three hours daily walking up and down the beach in addition to handling his mayorly duties.
Kelly Prater came out with a team from employer Bank of the Ozarks in support of the dogs.
"The dogs help those in need," Prater said.
Walking for the second year in a row, Prater brought her four-legged friend, Patina, along for the fun.
"We have known a lot of people with disabilities, and what the dogs do for them is amazing," Prater said.
Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.