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Imagine a place where you know your neighbor- not just their name, but their parents’ names. Where your child’s teacher comes over for dinner. A present day Mayberry. This is the town of Rossville, Indiana. In a city that is mostly comprised of agricultural industry, the love of animals is something that seems to be innate in our citizens. We still have “Drive your tractor to school” day and the yearly tradition of breakfast with Santa in the barn- complete with a petting zoo. This is the way of life in Rossville. Community, service to others, and family are tenants that drive every decision.

My name is Jackee Banfill and I am 19 years old. The summer going into my freshmen year of high school I survived a catastrophic accident at fourteen years old on July 14, 2010. I was hit and dragged by a train that has resulted in many injuries and one of them being that my right leg was severed above the knee. I spent many months recovering in the hospital and rehab. Throughout the past four and a half years I have tried using a prosthesis, but it hasn’t worked out yet due to still needing more surgery. I have had 19 surgeries so far and injuries, revisions, and chronic pain have me facing more in the near future.

My name is Robert Bilotta I am 30 years old and live in Worcester, MA. I was diagnosed with Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy (MD) when I was a year old. In 2002, thanks to Boston Children’s-the best hospital in the world and the immeasurable gift from a donor-I received a heart transplant to correct cardiomyopathy caused by MD. Since my surgery I’ve strived to live a “normal” life but more importantly- my life; being an active member in my community, enjoying family and friends, and living independently. I graduated from Worcester State University in 2010 and now work in the Independent Living field as counselor and life skills trainer for young adults with disabilities.

Hi! My name is Matthew.­­­­­ I have Asperger's Syndrome (a form of Autism). I also have a Mixed Expressive and Receptive Language Disorder, Severe Dyslexia and Anxiety. I don't understand what all this means, I only know it makes it hard to understand other people and the world around me.

Our son, Giovanni was diagnosed with high functioning autism at age 3 and he will be 10 years old this summer. We are asking for your help.

Individuals on the autism spectrum present a variety of symptoms that can make it hard for them to communicate and form relationships. For Giovanni, it is a daily struggle that affects our whole family including our 5 year-old daughter. In addition to being on the autism spectrum, he also deals with anxiety, OCD, irritability, ADHD, Receptive Language Disorder, Auditory Processing Disorder and struggles emotionally to connect with people, regulating his emotions and forming friendships.

I am a 36 year old single mother to 5 wonderful children, who choose me to be there mom as much as I choose them. For over 10 years I was a foster/adoptive parent to over 60 foster children, and it was one of the best experiences in my life. I have always been a very active person, whether that is out in nature, helping out at my church, working with my children, or baking anything and everything! My daughter and I were in a car accident in 2013. Immediately my life changed. The accident resulted in extensive injuries, cognitive issues, and relying on a wheelchair. I have had to adapt and find new ways to do a lot of things, even the smallest things. Yet I am a fighter and will not give up. I believe that working with NEADS, and being matched with a service dog will allow me even more to get back some of the independence that I lost.

My name is Elizabeth Conlon. I am part of a dedicated private nonprofit organization, NFI (North American Family Institute). As a Registered Nurse, I work in NFI’s intensive residential program located at the Worcester Recovery Center Hospital, the Worcester Adolescent Recovery Center. Our mission is to provide a therapeutic milieu for children ages 13 to 19. Our work is based on a philosophy known as the normative approach, which emphasizes the ability of all people to achieve positive change when they are members of a community unified by its mission and purpose. The holistic and innovative services of NFI are tailored to individual client needs and help adolescents identify and build upon their strengths, emphasizing family work and community reintegration. The adolescents are greatly supported in this work by the relationships they form with staff, including service animals.

Artist and photographer, independent and caring, these are the words I want to define me, not cancer and rheumatoid arthritis patient. My name is Tracy Cornell and since 2004 when diagnosed with my first battle with Ovarian cancer, to 2006 when the Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) diagnosis was made, my life changed dramatically.

My name is Lindsay Curtius. I am an Education Specialist at San Diego Cooperative Charter School 2. My passion is supporting all children as they learn, grow, and thrive at the school I love. SDCCS2 is a progressive, developmentally-based, child-centered program. We focus on developing empathy and social emotional skills through healthy attachment, pro-social communication, and relationships. We are designated as an Ashoka Changemaker school through the Start Empathy Initiative and we are dedicated to the development of each individual child as a whole person. A service dog has been a welcome addition that fully aligns with our school’s mission and vision.

We are so happy Chappy has joined our family. Ryan continually says “I can’t believe I have my own dog!”. Ryan’s favorite game is getting Chappy to speak and say “I love you!” for a treat. We all agree that Chappy sounds just like Scooby-Doo when he “talks"! Chappy has truly revolutionized Ryan's outlook on life. There are so many smiles...

I am a 37 year old late deafened adult. In 2006 I started having trouble with my hearing in both ears and in December of that year I got my first pair of hearing aids. Over the next 9 months my hearing loss became very progressive and I started having vertigo and balance issues as well. Nothing in life could have prepared me for what I was going through or how it was going to impact my life as I knew it. I didn’t know how to live in the world when I could hardly make out what people were saying and it lead to a lot of isolation and anxiety. It has been a hard and emotional journey figuring out how to start my life over as a late deafened adult because it changed absolutely every aspect of my life. Fast forward 9 years to 2015 and I am proud to say that despite my challenges, I have come a long way.

Hi my name is Lillian Fraser-Gray and I am 12 years old. I have been in intensive therapy since 18 months old. I have been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, moderate retardation, Major Anxiety Disorder, ADHD, Mood Disorder, Auditory Processing Disorder, Mixed Receptive and Expressive Language Disorder, Sensory Integration Disorder, and cognitively stuck at about mid-kindergarten level. I have a very hard time dealing with all things going on around me. I am very happy to be in this process for a service dog to help me remain calm so that I may go out into the world and not be afraid or able to handle it. I am truly happy and eager to be able for this opportunity and grateful for NEADS. Thank you very much, Lily

My name is Matt, and I have lived with profound hearing loss my whole life. I did not receive hearing aids until I was seven years old. It has been a long journey to get to where I am today, but I am still far from being 100%.

My name is Sumer Gill. Fun fact about me-I am partially deaf. I have been diagnosed with genetic and progressive vestibulocochlear nerve deafening which means I have problems hearing. This is most likely due to a condition that I have, Turners Syndrome, which is a genetic disorder that I was born with and that comes with several health problems including; Osteoporosis (brittle bones), a heart murmur (one of my valves is incomplete), hypothyroidism, and of course my hearing issues.

My name is JT Graceffa. Because I was born with Cerebral Palsy (CP) I have limited ability to do certain things. Since 2008, I have had my wonderful service dog Melisa by my side, helping me with opening doors, picking up dropped items, carrying small items and turning lights off and on. Melisa has been a hard-working service dog and an important member of my family. She has allowed me to be more independent without asking for more help from family and friends.  She is ten and a half years old and soon will be enjoying a well-deserved retirement.

Hi.  My name is Issac and I am 14 years old and recently diagnosed with Autism and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  It took a while for my doctor to diagnose me because appointments are overwhelming for me and I usually shut down rather than participate.  Getting out into my community has also proven to be a big challenge for me... as you can imagine that makes it hard for me to make friends or enjoy the simpler things in life like going shopping or out to eat. 

Benny has been a blessing to my ministry since we started working together. He has sat at the feet of grieving family members as they prepared for the funeral of a loved one. He also sat at their feet during the funeral. He often knows before I do that people are struggling and in need of the comfort he provides.

Hello, my name is Christine and this is my family-my amazing husband Jean-Paul and my two beautiful children Madelyn and Samuel.  I was diagnosed with a brain tumor in October of 2012 and after 9 surgeries and several complications, I am finally tumor free.  I was blessed with my life, however, was left permanently deaf in my right ear.  Last year I started rapidly losing my hearing in my only hearing ear.  This has had a profound impact on my life.  I am very social and outgoing, but have turned to seclusion because of the loss of my hearing.  

Since I first heard of the NEADS program I knew it was an organization that I wanted to become more involved with. Working in a correctional setting, I get to watch the dogs trained by inmates every day. I see how fulfilling the program is for them, and how it helps inmates cope with anxiety/depression as the dogs are therapeutic to them on a daily basis. Our Mental Health Department decided that we wanted to get more involved, and get a therapy dog for our department to help with mental health treatment. Many of our clients have difficulty opening up and engaging in therapy, having a therapy dog present helps them to feel more comfortable and more trusting.

The impact that Franklin has had on both my classroom and the entire school community has been nothing short of amazing!  We all now enter school with a more positive outlook as we know Franklin will be there to put a smile on our faces even on our most challenging days.  Franklin has already helped our students to relieve their anxiety, overcome their fear of dogs, and extend their social group by being a positive social tool who helps them to relate to their peers.  I can't thank NEADS enough for creating this program and training these dogs so well and for allowing me to be part of their extended family.  Thank you NEADS!!

Let me just start by saying - thank you for your time. I have had hearing issues for several years but I still like to walk, garden, swim, and lead an active life. A NEADS Service Dog for hearing would help me do that.

I am excited to be joining the NEADS family and developing a partnership with Bella. Bella will serve as both a ministry dog and a service dog assisting me personally. As a minister and an animal-lover, I cannot think of a more ideal way to “do” ministry. Bella and I will serve our congregation, community, and region in many ways: through congregational and interfaith worship and events; pastoral care visits to nursing homes and hospitals; and crisis response to recovery and reunification centers in Petersham and the wider region. We will respond to requests by local clergy of any faith as well as regional fire, police, and other emergency responders.

My name is Debbie Liebl. I became deaf from spinal Meningitis when I was four years old from a birthday party of 20. All 20 party kids contacted Meningitis. Only 5 of us survived and I was one of the survivors.

I'm Mia and I have Autism. I am 9 years old and in 3rd grade. I am very smart and friendly. I really love Taylor Swift and her music, of course. I'm like her biggest fan ever. I know the words to all of her songs and I will sing them to my new dog! I'm also really good at math, literacy, and facts, and I like watching game shows like Jeopardy, the Price is Right , and wheel of Fortune. I'm hoping my dog likes to snuggle and watch with me.

I am fundraising for NEADS, This is my story. A machinist by trade, cabinetmaker by hobby, I served over 15 years as a high school and college level trades instructor, teaching shop skills, until I was no longer able, because of Multiple Sclerosis. Following a necessary retirement from public education, I continued to remotely provide part time manufacture engineering services for an additional 8 years. Then, my MS cognitive deficiencies required me to accept a full retirement mode of life. 8 years ago I was approved for a service dog but opted for a NEADS "flunky" dog instead. The dog's name was Yukon Joe. Even though he did not successfully complete his NEADS training, he still had many commands which he responded to. The most important of these being his command to grab a "Phone", should I fall, and his willingness to "Wait", while I waddled up a flight of stairs (so I can navigate the stairs alone). Joe could "Fetch" dropped items, use his "Paws" to open disability pads at entrance doors, bring his "Leash" and assist to "Dress" into the leader. Joe intuitively "knew" when I was experiencing a "messy" day and always maintained close proximity on those days. My boy, Yukon Joe, died October 27th this past fall.

My name is Kathy Marcello. I am a Behavior Specialist at Peaslee Elementary School in Northborough, MA. In the past 18 years, I have worked with many students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Anxiety, ADHD and Tourette Syndrome. My passion is supporting all children as they learn, grow, and thrive in their school environment. I was recently matched with a NEADS dog named Ruby. My hope is to improve all students’ ability to communicate with peers and adults with the help of Ruby.

My name is Tia Maxson. I cannot begin to tell you how much Millie, my Service Dog for hearing, has made a positive impact on my life. Millie has enriched my life in ways beyond what I could have ever imagined. I am single sidedly deaf in one ear and have 20% hearing loss in the other. There were many things I struggled with before having Millie at my side. For example, I often wouldn’t wake from my alarm in the morning, causing me to be late to work day after day.

My name is Ardis Mayo. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. As a lifelong resident of Maine I have always had a dog by my side. In recent years this has not been possible because I have MS and even a small dog is enough to flatten me if tempted by a passing butterfly. There are other challenges that come with this neurological nemesis like maintaining my balance when I drop things (an all too frequent habit) and managing doors that don’t close automatically behind me. One of the ways I maintain my endurance (as well as my mental health) is to take long walks in the early morning in our wooded community. There are some risks to being out so early when few people are around. A service dog can be trained to bark if I need assistance and, conveniently, will also carry a water bottle for me.

My mother, Nancy, has alway been hard of hearing (doctors attributed it to a severe case of scarlet fever as a child). As teenagers, my siblings and I were often impatient with this loss and instead of repeating ourselves when she asked us to, we would say “Ma, get some hearing aids!”. Eventually, she took our advice and purchased hearing aids (something that her health insurance does not cover), and found these to be extremely helpful. In the last five years, however, her hearing has declined, to a point where even the hearing aids are not helping to ease her hearing deficit.

My name is Beth McNally and I am a school counselor at the Clinton Elementary School in Clinton, Ma. I support many students, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Anxiety and ADHD. My hope is to utilize a therapy dog in supporting all students as they work to increase their self esteem, empathy for others, positive behavior and social skills. Thank you for considering donating to NEADS on behalf of the students at the Clinton Elementary School!

Hello! Thank you for reading. I have my Masters in Clinical Social Work.  I have served on Chicago’s West Side, its suburbs and here in MA through public and alternative schools, not-for-profits and foster and adoption agencies for over 20 years.  My students have survived and triumphed abuse, neglect, trauma, death, a variety of losses, depression, anxiety and several other mental illnesses.

Hello, my name is Christopher Rushe and I am 45 years old.  I was born hearing, but became deaf at 25 from a condition called otosclerosis. It is a condition that affects the stapies bone and prevents transmission of sounds. I had a surgery to try and regain hearing in my right ear, but I knew even then that it was only a matter of time before I would be "deaf again" as this surgery is not a permanent fix. I say "deaf again" like that because the truth is I've been deaf since I lost my hearing at 25.

My name is Ellyn Salkin and I have been matched with Murray, a Service Dog for Therapy. As an advocate, counselor, and coach for people with autism spectrum disorders, other needs and different abilities, I'm thankful to have Murray by my side to provide comfort and encouragement. There are so many ways that Murray can assist in a therapeutic session or activity.

My name is Phyllis Samara. I was born with a moderate hearing loss, but I have never let my hearing loss stand in the way of accomplishing my goals. I have worked as an occupational therapist for 45 years. I graduated from the Sargent College at Boston University and I am a retired Professor Emerita from Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, MA. I have always had a passion for working with children and this led me to found the Barrett Family Wellness Center, a pediatric speech and occupational therapy clinic, in Northborough, MA.

My name is Eric Shairs and I’m working with NEADS to be paired with a Service Dog. Due to a diving accident August 5th, 2005 my condition is medically classified C6 incomplete spinal cord injury, socially titled quadriplegic. Recovery has/will continue to be a long road physically and mentally. Every day since my catastrophic injury I have and continue to rely on my manual wheelchair for daily mobility. My paralysis also affects my upper-body abilities due to no voluntary control of my trunk muscles (abdominals, obliques, mid-lower back) and hands/fingers. This compromises my ability to lean to the side, reach the ground or grab items. Picking up dropped items, reaching door handles, retrieving objects on the counter, operating light switches and pushing automatic door buttons are some of the daily activities a service dog will be able to help with.

Hi my name is Jessica Sinclair and I am a third year student at Rochester Institute of Technology, studying Journalism. I am trying to raise funds for a Hearing Dog to help me to live independently. I am currently working at Walmart Store, part-time while attending school, in hopes of earning funds towards my goal of acquiring a Hearing dog.

My life has changed so much since Earle has partnered with me. Always an active person, I thought I was very connected to the world. I had no idea that my world would get so large and that Earle would be the catalyst to that.

Cathedral in the Night is an outdoor church in Northampton, MA. Our community is a blend of people experiencing poverty, homelessness, and addiction; people living with mental illness; and people seeking a social justice-oriented, progressive church. Our weekly Sunday worship services include a hot, free dinner, insuring that there is a community meal every day of the week. We serve between 80-100 meals each Sunday. Additionally, we serve a weekly luncheon at a veterans support group in downtown Northampton. A ministry dog would be an incredible gift of support and healing in our community, where many people are marginalized and often overlooked.

Hi, my name is Brennan and I am 12 years old. I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome and anxiety about 6 years ago. I am a very sweet and sensitive boy. I like to make people happy. I enjoy playing video games because they help me to stop worrying about things and move on from bad times. I like being with my family. I enjoy swimming, too.

My name is Katelynne Steinke, and I am a 29 year old Paralympic hopeful, though truth be told I'm very close to the big 30. In November of 2008, I was in a car accident that severely injured my left leg. After two years of trying to salvage the limb, doctors made the decision to amputate above the knee. I immediately got involved with adaptive sports and worked for Spaulding Rehab in their adaptive sports programming. In June of 2012, I started experiencing complications in that residual limb and in December of that year, doctors decided to do a back surgery to help with the symptoms. Unfortunately, I received terrible, neglectful care that resulted in a MRSA infection in my spine, leaving me a T8 complete paraplegic.

"Monty's impact on my practice has been better than ever anticipated! With Monty available to provide acceptance, attention, and non judgmental friendship; clients who struggle to trust peers have been able to sit through social groups and participate actively, week after week!"

 

 

 

When I brought my first Hearing Dog, Cheyenne (pictured here), home from NEADS in 2006, I knew I'd sleep better with a working set of ears at night, but I had no idea just how profoundly my sweet girl would change my life. If at any point over our decade together, you watched the two of us walk down the sidewalk, you would see our heads turn in near unison, mine following hers as she alerted me to everything from someone calling my name to a cyclist coming up from behind us. While it's true that I felt far more secure when I was with Chey, she would go on to become much more than my ears; she was my best friend, and to say it was devastating to lose her very suddenly to an aggressive tumor this past fall would be a gross understatement.

In the summer of 2015, Ben was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism; many people are more familiar with the term Asperger’s Syndrome. We always knew our Benjamin Bunny was quirky: when he was learning to walk, he'd never let you see him trying. As soon as you'd turn your head to see what he was up to, he'd sit down. Then one day around 15 months old, he just walked across the living room like he'd been doing it for years.

My name is Elizabeth Vota. I am 15 years old and heading into my sophomore year in high school. For as long as I can remember, I have been actively involved in sports and physical fitness. That all changed at my tenth birthday party when I fell on my knees while skating. For the next three years I visited numerous doctors to try and determine why my knee never healed properly but never received a viable diagnosis. I was finally diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) by a terrific doctor. He taught me that EDS is a connective tissue disorder which makes my joints flexible and hypermobile, allowing my joints to easily dislocate in my body. He introduced me to a great physical therapist and great team of doctors. EDS effects my entire body which results in chronic pain everyday. I also have Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) which causes me to have a rapid heart rate and low blood pressure, causing me to have frequently dizzy and fainting spells.

It is with great pleasure that I share with you all my decision to embark upon a new journey with my second NEADS Service Dog for Therapy. As many of you reading this page know, I shared my professional endeavors with the honorable and adorable NEADS dog, Rowdy (pictured) from 2007-2015. The loss of Rowdy tore at my heart, making it necessary for me to “take stock” and really contemplate whether I would apply for a new working dog. Sixteen months later I am here, quite excited, filled with gratitude and ready to have another go with a new, furry, four-legged partner!

Hi my name is Josh Werner, I’m a 20 year old college student who has had my fair share of frustrations and challenges in life. I have a rare bone condition called osteogenesis imperfecta, or OI for short. It is a genetic disorder which leads to bones that break easily, often from little or no apparent cause. I have broken over 100 bones (I stopped counting once I got to 100) and have probably had at least 50 surgeries. The only bones that I haven't broken are my spine, fingers and toes. I have basically every bone in my body rodded or had plates put in. I use a power wheelchair to get around.

My name is Tracey Williams and I’m an Intensive Special Education Teacher for Boston Public Schools. Several years ago I had three therapy dogs participate in a summer program for students with autism. The dogs came in twice a week and worked with children ages 3.9 to 5 years of age. The children increased their language skills, social skills, improved behavioral issues and classroom topics such as turn taking and completing a task. After that experience I was hooked on working with a classroom dog and students with behavioral needs, Autism, cognitive and developmental diagnosis. My classroom consists of children who are entering school for the first time and have severe anxiety, non-verbal, and socialization deficits. Having Cuba in the classroom calms the environment for learning, increases verbal skills as well as social skills and increases the motivation for the whole classroom.

Hi, my name is Vanessa Winters and I am a United Church of Christ pastor in Midcoast Maine. As a solo pastor of a small church, Ginger is my partner in ministry and helps me with so many tasks that I could never accomplish alone. She accompanies me to worship services, visits to nursing facilities, and people's homes. She also is with me as I serve as a chaplain to Maine Medical Center, hospice, and to the police and fire departments. Ginger is a great source of comfort in my community which has a serious need for it. On an average day Ginger and I might meet with military veterans, people with dementia, at risk youth, and people experiencing sudden and difficult loss. She helps make their suffering more bearable. Thank you for contributing to us so we can continue to serve our community!!

My name is Maddy, I’m 15 years old and I live in Raynham, MA. I was diagnosed with ASD (Asperger’s) when I was twelve years old. I have struggled with different things such as anxiety/depression, regulating my emotions, forming friendships and eating since I was little. I also have a hard time when I am not in my own environment and going to school has always been hard for me. I feel best when I am at home. I really feel like having a social dog will help me a lot with all of these things.