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 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.

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.

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

My name is Matt, and I have lived with profound hearing loss my whole life. I did not receive hearing aids until I was seven years old. It has been a long journey to get to where I am today, but I am still far from being 100%.

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.

Hello! My name is Kelley Kennedy and I truly love my job! There are many reasons why but the most important ones are between 7-8 years old. You see, I am a special education teacher at the Wheelock Elementary School in Medfield, MA and I work in a partial inclusion classroom which currently supports six students who have a wide range of special skills and needs. They come into my classroom for a portion of their day to receive one on one or small group instruction in reading, writing, or math. Here in the Learning Center, we work hard together and we also earn well deserved breaks.

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 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.

I'm Mia and I have Autism. I am 9 years old and in 3rd grade. I am very smart and friendly. I really love Taylor Swift and her music, of course. I'm like her biggest fan ever. I know the words to all of her songs and I will sing them to my new dog! I'm also really good at math, literacy, and facts, and I like watching game shows like Jeopardy, the Price is Right , and wheel of Fortune. I'm hoping my dog likes to snuggle and watch with me.

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.

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 name is Beth McNally and I am a school counselor at the Clinton Elementary School in Clinton, Ma. I support many students, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Anxiety and ADHD. My hope is to utilize a therapy dog in supporting all students as they work to increase their self esteem, empathy for others, positive behavior and social skills. Thank you for considering donating to NEADS on behalf of the students at the Clinton Elementary School!

Hello! Thank you for reading. I have my Masters in Clinical Social Work. I have served on Chicago’s West Side, its suburbs and here in MA through public and alternative schools, not-for-profits and foster and adoption agencies for over 20 years. My students have survived and triumphed abuse, neglect, trauma, death, a variety of losses, depression, anxiety and several other mental illnesses. My work has always been to connect or reconnect my clients to their strengths, capabilities, hopes and dreams. I am seeking a NEADS Service Dog for therapy to help me with this pursuit. There is much research that supports the calming effect that a friendly, familiar, and highly skilled dog gives to a human.

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 Phyllis Samara. I was born with a moderate hearing loss, but I have never let my hearing loss stand in the way of accomplishing my goals. I have worked as an occupational therapist for 45 years. I graduated from the Sargent College at Boston University and I am a retired Professor Emerita from Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, MA. I have always had a passion for working with children and this led me to found the Barrett Family Wellness Center, a pediatric speech and occupational therapy clinic, in Northborough, MA.

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.

My life has changed so much since Earle has partnered with me. Always an active person, I thought I was very connected to the world. I had no idea that my world would get so large and that Earle would be the catalyst to that.

Cathedral in the Night is an outdoor church in Northampton, MA. Our community is a blend of people experiencing poverty, homelessness, and addiction; people living with mental illness; and people seeking a social justice-oriented, progressive church. Our weekly Sunday worship services include a hot, free dinner, insuring that there is a community meal every day of the week. We serve between 80-100 meals each Sunday. Additionally, we serve a weekly luncheon at a veterans support group in downtown Northampton. A ministry dog would be an incredible gift of support and healing in our community, where many people are marginalized and often overlooked.

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.

When I brought my first Hearing Dog, Cheyenne (pictured here), home from NEADS in 2006, I knew I'd sleep better with a working set of ears at night, but I had no idea just how profoundly my sweet girl would change my life. If at any point over our decade together, you watched the two of us walk down the sidewalk, you would see our heads turn in near unison, mine following hers as she alerted me to everything from someone calling my name to a cyclist coming up from behind us. While it's true that I felt far more secure when I was with Chey, she would go on to become much more than my ears; she was my best friend, and to say it was devastating to lose her very suddenly to an aggressive tumor this past fall would be a gross understatement.

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 Tracey Williams and I’m an Intensive Special Education Teacher for Boston Public Schools. Several years ago I had three therapy dogs participate in a summer program for students with autism. The dogs came in twice a week and worked with children ages 3.9 to 5 years of age. The children increased their language skills, social skills, improved behavioral issues and classroom topics such as turn taking and completing a task. After that experience I was hooked on working with a classroom dog and students with behavioral needs, Autism, cognitive and developmental diagnosis. My classroom consists of children who are entering school for the first time and have severe anxiety, non-verbal, and socialization deficits. Having Cuba in the classroom calms the environment for learning, increases verbal skills as well as social skills and increases the motivation for the whole classroom.

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.