Independence in an overwhelming world

Jennifer Gallagher shared these words at the June 2023 Mechanical Contractors Association of New York golf outing, at which BluePath was the recipient charity of the event’s $50,000 proceeds.

My name is Jennifer, and this is my husband, Eddie. We have two amazing sons – Nathaniel is 13 and Jonathan is 9; he’s also nonverbal, autistic, and an extreme eloper.  This is Milo, Jonathan’s service dog. We want to thank you for choosing BluePath as your donation recipient today and tell you a little bit about our lives before and after receiving Milo.

Our son Jonathan is an extremely fun, smart, amazing builder who is also a silent Ninja running around and trying to escape since the day he could walk. He was diagnosed with autism at 13 months old.  Jonathan’s eloping has always been a huge issue, he doesn’t get how dangerous it is to wander off, to open doors, and just disappear – he is quiet and quick!

Because of this safety issue, it was extremely difficult to do things as a family. We would always split up; one of us would go with our older son and the other would stay home with Jonathan. It was too hard for Jonathan to focus and stay calm while outside and there was no breathing room to arrive somewhere and get settled.

We live a block from the ocean because we all love it but could never go for more than an hour because Jonathan would take off towards the water and run the entire time. We had terrible guilt as parents that it was easier to stay home than go to a playground, the beach, church, or any regular day to day activities – never mind family trips or vacations. The fear of losing Jonathan was crippling.

It is an understatement to say that Milo and BluePath have transformed our lives. I knew Milo was going to have an impact on Jonathan; I just didn’t know how much it would help our entire family. Jonathan and Milo are belted together whenever we leave the house which seems to calm and center Jonathan and give him some independence in a world that is extremely overwhelming for him.

Jonathan knows to go get his belt if he wants to go outside. He walks holding the handle on Milo’s vest instead of holding one of our hands. They have this beautiful relationship of trust that has allowed Jonathan to grow and accomplish so much with Milo by his side.

A year later, we’ve been on countless outings… from simple trips to the supermarket to Jonathan’s First Communion to Disney World. We finally unpacked our beach chairs and we’re able to enjoy time together by the ocean. Milo has also changed how people look at Jonathan; instead of a young boy being a brat when having a meltdown, they now see a boy struggling to participate in the world.

Thank you again for choosing such an amazing organization. Thank you for helping families like mine have these miracles of peace and joy while navigating this autism journey. BluePath has changed our lives and the lives of so many others – and they do this at no cost. They trained us and continue to help and support all the families that have received service dogs.  Eddie and I are forever grateful for your generosity.

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