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Rita MarchiFor more than 60 years, Rita Marchi has been knitting sweaters and other cozy items for her husband, family members, friends and herself, but it's only been the past six years that she also has been knitting sweaters for friends of the four-legged kind.

Rita's idea for her designer dog sweaters came when the owner of the dog bakery she frequented commented that she liked the sweater Rita was wearing, which she had knitted for herself. The owner suggested that she make dog sweaters and said that she would sell them in her store. Rita had become aware of Guide Dogs of America several years before when she read about the school in a magazine. A long-time owner and lover of Labrador Retrievers, Rita started to make donations to the school. She knew that she would donate 100 percent of what she made from the sweaters to GDA . It was a perfect fit!

Over the years, Rita has knitted and sold more than 50 sweaters, which start at $25 depending on the size of the dog and the detail of the design.

Rita's husband, who passed away four years ago, shared her love of Labs and was very supportive of his wife's commitment to the school. Together, the couple owned five Labrador Retrievers. Her husband was impressed by her ability to bring together the talent she began developing at the age of four and her love of dogs to make a difference in the life of blind individuals by supporting GDA.

"I have owned several Labs. I know what it takes to train them, and it's a lot of love and patience," said Rita. "Labs are the kind of dogs that want to do something; they want to help. Both the blind person and the dog benefit from the incredible work of Guide Dogs of America. The dog gives its partner love and devotion, which he gets right back from the blind person to whom the dog has given a life of greater independence."

Rita has turned a lifelong hobby into a warm and loving gift, both for the lucky dog that wears one of her creations and for Guide Dogs of America.

Rita's love for Labs and her commitment to GDA inspired her to become a Partner In Trust. As a result, Rita's contributions to the school will continue through planned giving to extend beyond her lifetime.

For information about becoming a Partner in Trust, please contact Rhonda Bissell at 818-833-6432.

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