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 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.

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!

I am a 35 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Hello! My name is Beth Keane, and I am a special needs teacher at Nathaniel Morton Elementary School, in America's Hometown of Plymouth, MA. My self-contained classroom serves children between the ages of eight and twelve that have significant special needs. My children come from all over the town of Plymouth and present with unique sets of talents and challenges. Two qualities they all have are a tremendous amount of love to share and the desire to succeed. How each child achieves success if vastly different.

My name is Thomas Ketcham and I was diagnosed with MS in October of 1999. I was only 29 at the time working in a private group home as a counselor helping to take care of the developmentally disabled. I was having vision problems (Optic Neuritis). I was seeing double and not really seeing a lot out my left eye. My neurologist quickly diagnosed me with MS and began aggressively treating with a five course high dosed IV steroids. My vision improved but my left eye never came back 100 %. I will say that at that time I went through a real emotional roller coaster. I spent about three weeks out of work before returning. I had a few minor MS related problems but my MS was stable and I was able to continue working. I worked in the field working my way up to supervisory position up until 2012. At that time, I had a bad flare up. I started have some balance problems and right side weakness. I was unable to return to work and had to go on permanent disability.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Hi, my name is Lynn Ann Oski. I have been a practicing licensed mental health professional for over twenty five years. I work in two separate settings. My first practice is in Gardner, MA where I focus on helping individuals with Anxiety, Trauma, and PTSD. My clients are individuals ranging from children, as young as 5 years old, to adults. I have a sub specialty of working with Veterans with PTSD. My second setting is in a public school working with students in a substantially separate classroom. These High School students suffer from life impacting learning disabilities, cognitive impairments and physical handicaps. Some of my students here are non-verbal and I am hoping to open up a new way for them to communicate and express themselves with the help of a NEADS dog.

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 at a faster than normal rate 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.

I am a 25-year-old recent graduate of UMass Boston, where I studied psychology and women's & gender studies. 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.

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.

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.

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.