Sponsor a Client

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 Carolyn Barrett and I’m a 23-year-old recent graduate from Boston College. I have recently begun the process to obtain my second service dog with NEADS. When I was 10 years old, I received my first service dog from NEADS. I was matched with Perkins (pictured with me) a black lab who changed my life in unimaginable ways. I’ve been lucky enough to have Perkins by my side for the past twelve years. Since I went to college, Perkins has enjoyed a cushy retirement with my parents, but I’m about to move-out and begin my adventure as an adult and so its time for me to get another service dog or… as we’ve told Perkins… an assistant of sorts for her (she’ll always be the boss).

Just recently I made the journey to NEADS in Massachusetts, a two and a half hour drive with my parents, to go for an interview for a service dog. I came into this knowing that I was ready to have a service dog but was unsure about the outcome of this trip. Was I going to get accepted? Were there going to be any barriers set in front of me? I felt as if I were going into a world of the unknown. Fast forward: I had the interview, shared my feelings and thoughts about how the dog would change my life for the better and was accepted to get a dog!

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.

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.

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.

Hi, my name is Vera Cunningham. I was diagnosed with MS in 1992. NEADS is a wonderful organization that has accepted me for the second time. I graduated in March 2003 with my partner Lily. I have had an empty place in my heart since Lily passed away on Mother's Day 2015. She is truly missed.

My name is Tammie. I was first diagnosed with MS shortly after the birth of my twin daughters in 1997. I have dealt with the physical and emotional challenges the best I can. My husband and I have three wonderful children who have helped me live as normally and actively as I can. Our children are now young adults- our son is a United States Marine and our daughters are both full time college students (all three are out of state.) My condition has advanced to secondary progressive MS. Certain everyday tasks have become more and more challenging to me. I have always been an active person and want to continue that way. Simple tasks that we all take for granted have been increasingly difficult, and the help of a service dog will keep me active and help me maintain a positive outlook on life.

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.

I was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Disease, a neuromuscular illness that occurs when the mitochondria cannot generate enough energy for the body’s demands. It is progressive and incurable, and can lead to a shortened life expectancy. It often includes muscle pain and weakness, neuropathy, extreme fatigue, and complications related to organ failure. To some extent every day, I experience dizziness, nausea, pain, and exhaustion. I am frequently unable to do things for myself. As this devastating disorder has caused increasing limitations, I realized the need for the independence, mobility, and freedom that can come through canine assistance.

Hello, my name is Sandy. In 2013 I was diagnosed with Relapsing/Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. My symptoms started several years ago thought to be Fibromyalgia as the symptoms are very similar. My episodes can last a few hours to several days. At times I am hospitalized or getting infusions to help cope with the weakness in arms and legs, extreme fatigue, inability to following a conversation or communicate thought among other issues. Though I have come to terms in my MS, I know I need to take steps to insure my independence in the future. A Service Dog would be a blessing for my future.

Hello, my name is Connie St. Onge Post. About 12 years ago I was diagnosed with atypical disc disease, meaning the discs in my spine are aging and breaking down faster than normal causing continuous pain. Ten years ago the pain became so overwhelming that I was forced to retire from my job of 28 years. The physical and mental toll has been devastating.

My name is Brian Roberts. I have a rare medical disease which impacts such things as my hormones, body temperature, weight, memory, and emotions. I have had a very challenging life. I have almost died a few times and I never thought I would make it to the age of 40 but I am happy to say that I am now 47!

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 Chris Slavin. Thank you for visiting my fundraising page. I am looking forward to adding a NEADS Service Dog into my life. When I went to my NEADS interview and assessment at the campus in Sterling, MA, Kathy told me I was a “Big World” person who needed a “Big World” dog. I had never heard that phrase used before, but when explained to me, I understood what Kathy meant. I think you will too, when you read more about my “Big World”, below. I have always been active and an athlete. In 2007 I was competing in USASA Nationals in Lake Tahoe as a competitive snowboarder. It was a gorgeous April day and it was my first really big competition at the National Level. I was so excited to be competing and representing the U.S. against competitors from around the globe. Unfortunately, I had a devastating crash while going over a jump in Slopestyle which resulted in 10 fractured vertebrae and a spinal cord injury. The doctors came into my room in ICU three days later to tell me that they were sorry about my injury. I told them it was okay, and that I would be skiing again by next season. And so began my journey into the world of adaptive sport.

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.

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 Brent Woodard, and I am 21 years old. Since I was born, I have been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, more specifically, Spastic Quadriplegia. In addition, I am prone to seizures and strokes; I'm considered to be high risk. With all of these associated health concerns, I applied for a service dog. Fortunately, my wish was granted, and I have been approved for a service dog. This dog will become my companion and my safety net, especially with me wanting to be more independent.