Sponsor a Client

My name is April Alford-Harkey and I am the chaplain for St. Vincent's Special Needs Services in Trumbull and Stratford, Connecticut. I provide pastoral care to special needs adult participants, students, staff, parents, and caregivers. We all know the mystical relationship that often occurs between animals and humans. A ministry dog will allow me to connect to non-verbal participants, those on the autism spectrum and others who have a difficult time communicating with the world. The ministry dog will also provide special needs participants with an unconditionally loving presence, and an often much needed opportunity to experience loving touch. We need your help to bring this special ministry to St. Vincent’s.

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 Kelly Heller and I have been matched with Sebastian, a classroom service dog. I am a District Behavior Specialist for Lebanon School District in Lebanon, PA. Sebastian and I are hard at work in our district’s emotional support, autistic support, and life skills support classrooms. Our students are enjoying having him wander into the classroom for a handshake, a puppy kiss, and another body to read to. The difference he has already made in our district has been incredibly rewarding to see.

My name is Joanne Beaudry, a Speech/Language Pathologist at Wachusett Regional High School in Holden, MA. I am working with classrooms of students on the Autism Spectrum; most have been diagnosed with Asperger's or PDD-NOS . Many of the students have co-morbid diagnosis' of severe anxiety, severe depression, ADHD, and communication disorders. With these secondary diagnosis, their behaviors make it extremely difficult to express their feelings as well as communicate and socialize with peers, and adults in their environment.

My name is Eric Bellavance and I'm 52 years old. I have a condition called Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy which causes wasting and weakening muscles throughout my body. It also causes cardiac and respiratory issues. This is a genetic condition which has affected several members of my family. About ten years ago I started experiencing difficulty with climbing stairs and walking up inclines. Since then I have progressed an now walk with aid of a cane and use a mobility scooter regularly. The dexterity of my hands has been an increasing problem over the past few years.

Suzanne is a mother, writer, youth coach, and Protestant ordained minister. Suzanne is interested in the myriad ways ministry happens outside church walls, and is eager to embark on a new partnership of pastoral care with a NEADS Service Dog for Therapy. Suzanne states: “I believe animals can offer a loving, non-judgmental, sacred presence to the ordinary world, which can transcend religious differences.” Suzanne believes NEADS dogs can provide significant comfort to those facing life’s dark moments of challenge in hospital rooms, hospice, prisons, and nursing homes. Suzanne says, “I hope people from far and wide join me in collaborating with NEADS to bring another very special dog to the world as a messenger of God’s care and love.”

I am a 34 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.

Rev. Debbie Clark is pastor of Edwards United Church of Christ in Framingham, Massachusetts.  The congregation has welcomed Jeannie, a beautiful standard poodle, as a "service dog for ministry."  Jeannie provides a warm, gentle, caring presence for the congregation and the wider community.

Hi, my name is Vanessa Colesworthy and I am a United Church of Christ pastor in coastal Maine. There are many needs in my community which I feel a NEADS dog could meet. My dog will accompany me as I visit people in homes, nursing facilities, hospitals, and local schools as well as in my duties as a chaplain to the fire and police departments. I can't wait to meet my new partner in ministry and am asking for any contributions that will help me meet my goal. Thanks and blessings!

When I first applied to get an assistance dog from NEADS, I knew that I would receive a special dog. I didn't know that I would receive a dog that has had such a huge impact on my professional and personal life. Rev accompanies me to work everyday, which is the Nevins Nursing and Rehab Centre in Methuen Massachusetts.

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.

Hello, my name is Victoria Davis. I am a freshman at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. I have been fighting with a connective tissue disorder, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome for six years now. This genetic disease makes it so that my joints dislocate on their own accord due to a collagen fiber mutation, it is extremely painful and there is no cure.

Hello, my name is Alyssa DeFazio. I am a junior in college at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT/NTID), in Rochester, New York. I have been hearing impaired my entire life and now, I wear two cochlear implants. I received one in July 2004 and the other in July 2010. When I wear both of my implants, I function very well in the hearing world and can hear almost everything. However, when I take them off, such as when I sleep or shower, I cannot hear anything at all. It is completely silent in my ears; I cannot hear even a sound, peep, or beep. When I am sleeping, I go into a deep deep sleep and am unable to wake up to alarms clocks, even with vibration. Even three vibrating alarm clocks do not wake me! I even sleep through fire alarms! This really frightens me and my family. Even with my cochlear implants, I still am unaware of sounds like keys dropping or cars approaching in parking lots.

Michelle was born profoundly deaf and has identified herself as being culturally Deaf. She attended Gallaudet University and received her doctorate degree (Ph.D.) in Clinical Psychology.  When not working, Michelle is active and enjoys the outdoors of New England. She can often be found hiking, running and camping during her down time.

Gradually becoming deafer, Cynthia needs a hearing dog to alert her to everyday sounds such as alarms and phone calls. Without her hearing aids, she can barely hear anything.

Diagnosed with MS, Michelle hopes to have an assistance dog in time to train together before she becomes more disabled. Michelle was very active and independent before the MS and feels that a dog would help her to feel whole again.

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.

My name is Jill and I've been profoundly deaf since birth. Because of my hearing loss, I face challenges across almost every aspect of my life and I have worked hard to mitigate barriers. Although I try to be as self-sufficient as possible, at 32, I am realizing that I need more help to address and overcome the challenges I face as a woman with hearing loss and achieve the things I want to achieve. I've been dependent on two hearing aids my entire life, but even with them I am unable to hear high-pitched sounds like whistling teapots, stove timers, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire alarms from neighboring apartments. In January 2015, NEADS matched me with a beautiful hearing dog named Jeni.

Hello, my name is Fred Hutchinson and I am the principal at Harry Hoag Elementary School, a pre-K to grade 6 building in the Fort Plain Central School District in upstate New York. Our school serves about 460 students in a rural area where poverty affects the majority of families. This year, our free & reduced school lunch rate (a major indicator of poverty) reached its highest number ever, surpassing 65 percent.

I’m Sue Jones a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and I work with clients who suffer from trauma, situational difficulties and mental illness. My primary place of employment is located in a psychiatric facility. As you can imagine, living in such a facility can be difficult and frustrating at times for clients. I have been working in this environment for close to 20 years. At the same time have volunteered as a NEADS “weekend puppy raiser” and was able to bring some of the pups in training to the hospital weekly. The response and excitement from the patients and staff was overwhelming. Playing with these dogs, petting them and loving them, brought smiles and sometimes happy tears to people they encountered. As a result of this positive interaction I applied for a therapy “assistance dog” and was matched with Chips. He is a BIG, lovable yellow lab who puts a smile on every face he meets. Chips has been coming to work with me daily and has a huge fan club. He attends therapy sessions with patients, groups, outside activities and sometimes will help motivate folks to get out of bed and start the day.

Hi Everyone, My name is Rylie and I have been matched to become a therapy dog at Boston Medical Center (BMC). I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. In this role, I will visit patients, families and staff at the hospital and bring with me compassion, caring and a pleasant diversion from hospital 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.

My name is Karen Landy and I am a rabbi at NewBridge on the Charles – a continuum of care community in Dedham, MA. We are a multigenerational campus with a k-8 Hebrew Day School – the Rashi school. I am so lucky to have found a wonderful chaplaincy dog to partner with me in my work of healing, teaching, and gemilut Hasidim – loving kindness. Tamari, my one year old, Labrador retriever, has touched my residents in ways that compliment and surpass my work. She brings smiles to everyone – residents and staff. She patiently gives visits and love. She participates in therapy and is able to fetch the ball for hours. She is the epitome of unconditional love and everyone had labeled her their dog. We are truly blessed to have her.

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.

I began my partnership with Daisy, a young Golden Retriever "Service Dog for Ministry" in October. She has become a favorite in the various ministry settings in which I am involved. In churches, she opens up conversations with people who might be reluctant otherwise. She is particularly good with kids, even the most hesitant.

My name is Karen Lohr and I’ve been matched with Sasha since October 2013. When I applied for a service dog in February 2013 I didn’t know quite how much my life would change. It had been just over a year since my neck injury that left me an incomplete quadriplegic; and six years since a neuromuscular disease had caused initial lower leg paralysis. In the year since my neck injury I had missed almost 8 months of work, had neck fusion surgery, lived in a nursing home for 2 ½ months, had countless hours of doctor’s appointments and physical therapy; yet I was determined to go back to my fulltime job at UConn and continue living by myself. After all, I had moved to Connecticut from Arizona for my job & sled hockey, and my family lived hundreds of miles away.

Hello, my name is Dr. Julie Gardner Mandel. I am a clinical psychologist in Boston’s Back Bay specializing in the treatment of Eating Disorders. I teach Psychiatry Residents at Harvard Medical School and am on staff at Massachusetts General Hospital. More importantly, let me introduce my beloved, talented, empathic and oh-so-wise canine co-therapist: Henry Freud Mandel.

I received the best Christmas present on December 23, 2014 when I was accepted into the NEADS program to receive a service dog. My name is Mary Marco and my previous service dog passed away this past August. I live alone and I fall a lot. It has been very difficult for me since Mandy is no longer there to help me get up.

Hello, my name is Marie Neault. I suffer nerve damage and chronic pain associated with numerous surgeries to treat endometriosis. So many damaging aspects of my surgeries, including scar tissue, have damaged most of my internal organs and complications continue.

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.

I am a 24-year-old student at UMass Boston, studying psychology and women's & gender studies, which I love. I was diagnosed with type II spinal muscular atrophy around three years old. It is a genetic disease resulting in the death of motor neurons, causing worsening system-wide muscle weakness. As a small child, I could walk slowly and for short distances. I had a spinal fusion to correct scoliosis at age eleven, which caused me to lose this ability and my weakness began to manifest much more rapidly. I require the use of an electric wheelchair both at home and out in the world. Although I am unable to transfer in and out of my wheelchair on my own, once in it, I go about my day as independently as possible. I've learned to adapt to my surroundings, and have become quite crafty in figuring out alternative ways to do things. Still, it is not an impeccable plan. Things can and do go wrong.

I was diagnosed with ALS this past June of 2013. It has been a challenging journey for me and my loving family dealing with this every moment of every day. ALS is a degenerative Motor Neuron Disease. At this point, I have begun to walk with a walker. I keep active, go to work every day, and am driving. As the disease progresses, these activities will become more challenging. Not long after hearing about the work done at NEADS and going through an interview, they provided a beautiful yellow lab named Swanson in March of 2014. She has been such a blessing. Aside from performing tasks that help get me through the day (fetching, retrieving, opening doors, etc), she has brought a sense of joy and peace to our family which was absent for a while. I am now taking care of Swanson so she can take care of me.

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.

Injured in a car accident in 1982, Cyndi is an incomplete parapalegic and needs to use a cane to help her get around. She attends Charter Oak State College as a commuting student and a dog would be a great friend and assistant.

Hi, I'm Sandy, pictured here with my second NEADS dog, Rally. I was diagnosed with Juvenile RA when I was 13. Over the years, the disease has left me with a severe mobility impairment.

I am Samantha and I have a progressive connective tissue disorder (Stickler Syndrome) that affects my hearing, my vision and my joints. I have moderate/severe hearing loss in both ears. I’ve worn hearing aids since I was seven months old. I am very nearsighted and have worn glasses since I was 13 months old. I have also had extensive joint pain since I was two years old. Looking at me you would never know anything is wrong because I look “normal”. My hearing dog, Debbie, has completely changed this for me! She has truly been the biggest blessing to ever come into my life. I do not need to constantly worry about if I do not hear something going on around me, as Debbie will now jump in and help me. She is also a very visual cue to others that I am hard of hearing and my communication needs are different and to always approach me from the front so I can see and hear what they are saying.

Overnight I suffered a profound, severe hearing loss at the age of eighteen. Though it was going to take more than that, I thought, to derail my college plans and dreams of majoring in French and Theatre - off I went. One semester later I found myself closer to home, and closer to Boston for medical treatments. I tried every hearing device, medication, and had every test possible - nothing aided me. No verdict was reached on how or why I lost my hearing. I did not show signs of loss or illness, but it was just left that I suffered a virus of some sort. In the beginning, doctors thought it was a one time loss, and not progressive. Recently, it was determined that I had lost significantly more and likely will continue to progress at the same rate. I likely will be deaf in my lifetime.

For years I took in and helped difficult dogs, and now I’m the one that needs the help of a dog. For more than thirty years I was a psychotherapist often taking on the most difficult cases; and I did the same with dogs, adopting the most challenging and least likely to be rescued from the area shelters. Until 1994, when I was injured in a hiking accident with my dog, I was physically active, including tending my organic garden which fed me and another family. After the accident, I lost the stabilizing ligament in my left knee which began the long decline. Unfortunately, due to another dog clipping me in a neighbor’s yard, the same thing happened to my right knee.

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.