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.

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.

Hi, my name is Robert. I’m 12 years old and was diagnosed with a form of autism called PDD/NOS when I was almost 3 years old. Even though I have autism, I like to do lots of things that other kids do. I am a catcher for my baseball team, I play basketball in the winter, I love to geocache and I am a HUGE Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics and Patriots fan. However, having this kind of autism comes with challenges including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and auditory processing disorder. I also struggle with executive functioning and transitioning from one thing to the next throughout the day can be very challenging for me.

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.

Hi, this is David and he is 8 years old. He was diagnosed with autism when he was 21 months old. David is a loving, sweet, polite boy who truly enjoys life. He is always happy and laughing. He enjoys playing on his iPad, playing with his toys and being up in New Hampshire at his camper. Although David is such a happy, fun loving boy he has a lot of anxieties and trouble regulating his emotions at times. David is fearful of the dark, nightmares, being alone and sleeping. He also struggles with going to the doctors and/or places with a lot of people, especially if there is a high demand of expectations put on him.

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 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.

My name is Ryan and I really love animals. Since I was born eight years ago, I have loved and loved our kitty. We go to sleep each night together! Unfortunately, our kitty can’t go places on a leash or play outside with me. My family told me about NEADS Social Dogs and I got really excited about the possibility of a constant companion. Now I can’t believe I’ve been accepted for a social service dog! In my picture, you can see I am already sleeping with my stuffed, Labrador NEADS service dog. I struggle daily to regulate my emotions and keep a positive outlook on life. I am a very sensitive boy who needs a lot of reassurance that things are going to be okay. The demands of first grade were tough on me. I find reading, writing, and schedule changes very challenging. My frustration sometimes overwhelms me. When I get home, I need to unwind and get all my energy out. I look forward to spending the afternoons playing catch and hide and seek with my NEADS dog! I am also excited to have my dog sleep next to me to help with my night time worries. I love to cuddle with our kitty and my stuffed animals so I can’t wait to cuddle with my dog. I know this dog will make a huge difference in my life. I look forward to welcoming and caring for our newest family member!

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.

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.

Thekla was thrilled to be matched with her service dog Keely this past June, 2016! A better match could not have been made! Ever since, Thekla and Keely have been inseparable. The difference Keely makes in Thekla’s life is amazing and their bond is so strong and so sweet. Here is what Thekla recently said about having Keely in her life: When I first met Keely and they showed me to her she licked me super crazy. She cuddles with me and any time I ask her to “visit” with me she puts her head on my lap. Keely is so cool because when we are out other kids or grownups ask to pet her and she helps me start conversations. She helps me feel more comfortable talking to people I don’t know. She changed my life completely! I love her so much. She is my best friend and she and I go everywhere together. Keely is so special to me and I wouldn’t trade her for anything.

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

Martha is a 16-year-old girl diagnosed with autism who struggles daily to communicate her wants and needs to others. She attends school at Nashoba Learning Group where she has made great strides. We feel a NEADS dog will help Martha develop her social skills as it accompanies her on outings in the community. The dog will also be a companion for Martha, who, because of her disability, does not have the peer relationships of a typical teenager. Having a dog will also give Martha a feeling of responsibility as she will be feeding and walking him/her.

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.

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.

Hi, my name is Wytske and I am 54 years old. I have recently had to stop working because of progressive hearing loss. My cochlear implant has not provided sufficient support and my other ear progressed to profound deafness. I cannot locate sound and I no longer hear sufficiently for moving through traffic. I have burned food and kettles–because I cannot hear their whistle. I am unable to hear fire alarms, and often don’t have anyone in the house that can assist me. While traveling, I have missed train and plane connections because of announcements that I could not understand. I even ended up in a wrong city when attempting to visit my sister! Hearing loss is a non-visible disability, and people don’t realize I cannot hear, or forget about it just after I tell them. I no longer participate in social activities because of my inability to understand conversation. I hope that my recent approval into the NEADS program will result in increasing my ability to function on a daily basis and re-open up the world around me.

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.

Hi! I’m Olivia and I am so excited to have Rigney - my social dog! I have high-functioning autism with a sensory processing disorder and generalized anxiety disorder – this cause me to be a worry wart. Every day I worry about everything. Even though I love to have fun and play with my friends and learn at school, I worry about people being naughty and unkind words, and unknown things. Sometimes I hide when I worry.

Hello. My name is Billy and I am 11 years old. I have severe anxiety, Asperger's Syndrome (high functioning autism), and ADHD. I find it very difficult to be in social situations, or even just leave the house because of the Asperger's and anxiety. This past January my Mom removed me from public school because it was too over stimulating and stressful for me. My attendance was atrocious and my grades slipped dramatically. I am now homeschooled and it is a much better situation for me. My grades have improved and I made High Honor Roll while homeschooling.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Friends, neighbors, acquaintances lend me your ears: Most parents do not look forward to becoming empty nesters, but I dread the thought of living alone. I am a single mother of two young adult children who currently still live at home, but will not always. As an additional trial, I became deaf in my left year 17 years ago, and became hard of hearing in my right ear three years ago. Thankfully, I have been accepted as a recipient of a hearing service dog from from NEADS National Education for Assistance Dog Services, also known as Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans. While having a service dog partner would not take the place of my absent family, they can be my ears.

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 hearing has decreased over the last several years to the point that I find it necessary to ask for help from the NEADS program. Hearing loss is genetic in my family but mine has also been affected by chemotherapy.

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.

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 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 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.

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.

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.

Hello, my name is Tracey Stoll. I am a licensed Special Educator and Certified Autism Specialist. I am also the proud mother of 3 sons, two who are challenged with ASD and Anxiety. As the Founder/Executive Director of Learning Solutions, LLC (“LS” in Norwood, MA), I am committed to providing a safe, practice place for students experiencing social-emotional stress and confusion among their peers. Our Social Learning Center supports the growth of over 70 student clients a week; and collaborates with school districts to create inclusive programming that empowers at risk learners.

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.

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 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.

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.

You can sponsor a client by making a donation to NEADS. Just click on an individual listed below to learn why he or she needs an Service Dog, and how their new partnership with a NEADS dog will change their life. You can help to grant a person freedom, mobility and independence through canine assistance.