Coins for companionship

Family seeks donations to help retrieve service dog

Graceona+Campbell+found+her+forever+home%2C+and+is+now+looking+for+a+furry+friend+to+make+her+life+a+little+easier.+
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Coins for companionship

Graceona Campbell found her forever home, and is now looking for a furry friend to make her life a little easier.

Graceona Campbell found her forever home, and is now looking for a furry friend to make her life a little easier.

Courtesy of Joanna Campbell

Graceona Campbell found her forever home, and is now looking for a furry friend to make her life a little easier.

Courtesy of Joanna Campbell

Courtesy of Joanna Campbell

Graceona Campbell found her forever home, and is now looking for a furry friend to make her life a little easier.

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Their happy personalities brighten our day. They are always there to greet you at the door with a wagging tail and enthusiastic barks. Never in short supply of cuddles or kisses, dogs make the best companions, especially for little Graceona Campbell. 

The Campbell family raised $17,000 between Jan. 1-9 to fund a service dog for Graceona. The family is asking the community to help fund travel costs of $6,000 to bring the service dog back home. Those who are willing to help can donate here on Facebook. 

With every phase that she went through, I thought ‘this isn’t normal. Something is wrong.’”

— Joanna Campbell

“Gracie came to live with us through the foster care system in Kentucky,” mother Joanna Campbell said. “She had been taken at birth because her bio mom had been using cocaine and drinking during the pregnancy. She was born at 24 weeks, so she had spent the first four months of her life in the hospital and was on life support.”

Graceona was diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome and autism this past October. Fetal alcohol syndrome occurs when the mother drinks while pregnant, and autism impairs social skills and communication. 

“We were not aware at all [about her diagnosis],” Campbell said. “It wasn’t until she was brought to our home that we figured out why she had been taken [from her mother] and what her birth history was. It wasn’t until probably six months to a year later that I kept noticing things. With every phase that she went through, I thought ‘this isn’t normal. Something is wrong.’”

Campbell suspected a hereditary transference of bipolar disorder. Also known as manic-depressive illness or manic depression, bipolar disorder causes shifts in energy, mood, concentration and activity levels. 

I started researching and that’s when I found that service dogs can help children on the autism spectrum.”

— Joanna Campbell

“We went to Chicago because they can do brain scans that can confirm 100 percent if she is bipolar or if she’s not,” Campbell said. “What we heard was ‘she’s not bipolar, and we believe she’s on the autism spectrum.’ My brain kind of went to the worst case scenario and for the first time felt hopeless.”

Campbell said that Graceona’s autism diagnosis sparked the search for a therapy dog.

“I kept thinking ‘there’s a solution for this. I know there’s a solution to what she’s feeling,’” Campbell said. “I started researching, and that’s when I found that service dogs can help children on the autism spectrum. It was hopeless at first, but the service dogs give us hope again that can help navigate through these challenges.”

Service dogs are specially-trained dogs to aid those with everything from visual impairment to mental disorders. The dogs are specially bred and trained to help people with a specific disorder. Those who desire to have a service dog must go through a thorough application process.

Her dog will be seen as an equivalent of having a wheelchair or some other medical device that she has to have.”

— Joanna Campbell

“They need to see that a dog will medically help her,” Campbell said. “The place we’re going to trains service dogs. In that they need to make sure that you meet the criteria to actually have a service dog. Her service dog will be able to go anywhere she goes. Her dog will be seen as an equivalent of having a wheelchair or some other medical device that she has to have.”

The Campbell family chose to find their dog through the 4 Paws For Ability organization. The total cost of a service dog is between $40,000-$60,000, however, 4 Paws For Ability covers a portion of the cost, only asking the family to raise $17,000.

“Once you get approved, you start the fundraising process,” Campbell said. “Once you’re done with the fundraising process, 4 Paws will call me and verify. They will assign us a class, and they do eight classes a year, but they haven’t given us a class yet. We have already raised $17,000. We started our fundraising campaign on Jan. 1, and I want to say that in nine days we raised $17,000.”

It is only because God took this and just did his thing with it that we got $17,000 in nine days, and we’re so close to finishing up the travel fund.”

— Joanna Campbell

The family will have to travel to either Ohio or Alaska to get their dog and attend a 12-day training class. The class will teach the child and parent how to take care of and communicate with their dog. This is where the child and dog will form their bond. 

“We’re just trying to raise money for traveling,” Campbell said. “For the travel [fund], I set the goal at $6,000. If we can get $6,000 for travel expenses, surely we can make that work. I am really good with a budget. Having four kids, I’ve learned to clip coupons and save a penny anywhere I can.”

Anyone who desires to donate can do so through the Facebook fundraiser.

“It is only because God took this and just did his thing with it that we got $17,000 in nine days, and we’re so close to finishing up the travel fund,” Campbell said. “It’s just been my prayer from the beginning that God is glorified in the process. I understood that God can do amazing things, but I never fully experienced it in the vastness that I just did raising this money.”