How it all began:
Our lives changed completely when our son was diagnosed with autism at age two. I quit my job as a teacher so that I could care for Dan and get him the therapies that he needed. We designed a program with various therapies and activities but his progress was slow and our family felt broken. It was hard for us to get out into our community as a family; because of the risk of my son eloping from us, we were a family divided, with my husband going in one direction with our two other children, and me in the other keeping Dan safe.
I researched service dogs for children with autism and we received Shade when Dan was four. When I saw the incredible connection that could be made between a service dog and a child with autism, I knew we had made the right decision. Not only did our son’s service dog keep him safe and prevent him from bolting or finding danger, she was gentle, affectionate and intuitive, and this remarkable animal knew what my entire family needed to feel whole again. She blessed us all with her calm presence and unconditional love for 10 years.
When Shade passed away, we knew that Dan no longer needed a service dog to be safe, but would tremendously benefit from a companion dog. As a teen with autism, Dan’s life is stressful and it is good to have a buddy to play with and go on adventures with. Ranger came into our lives in June of 2018 and has provided Dan with the companionship he needs and the laughter and levity that is often lacking when dealing with autism. Ranger is up for anything. Together they go for long hikes, swim in lakes and even jump on the trampoline. Ranger insists on sitting nearby while Dan swings in his hammock after a long day of high school.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a board member?
I have been a member of BluePath’s board of directors since the organization’s inception. I am honored to share the BluePath vision of helping get more autism service dogs to the children who need them. Knowing what lies ahead for the families who receive a service dog from BluePath is absolutely thrilling. Every family member will have safety and peace of mind, laughter and licks; their lives will be wholly changed.
Walking the path with BluePath staff, volunteers, donors and service dog families is a kinship like no other. In a world where you can be anything or do anything, this group chooses to put more love and kindness into the world for others; that is something that I hope I am a part of for the rest of my life.
The BluePath Walkathon is our largest fundraising event and my entire family participates. The excitement of seeing so many BluePath supporters coming together – all sharing the same vision of helping others – is a precious memory that I will always hold dear.