Thank you so very much for taking the time to visit this fundraising page!
We have decided to begin a journey. One that we realize will most likely be a very long, time consuming, and at times uncomfortable one. But one that should go a long ways towards helping some very special people and in turn make their world a much better place. One that we hope will begin with us partnering (emphasis on the partnership) with a fantastic organization called 4 Paws for Ability and raising a whole bunch of money for them. And potentially end with our precious Cannon receiving a service dog trained specificaly for him and his individual needs. It is not an easy thing to ask for help. In fact, it's actually quite difficult. But with time, and A LOT of prayer.....we have felt led to try to make this happen. To try to help this great organization fullfill its incredibly worthwhile purpose and to possibly give Cannon this tool in his arsenal that just might make his life a whole lot better.
Cannon was a happy, healthy, thriving 2 (almost 3) year old when all of a sudden, within a few short weeks.....he disappeared. He initially stopped talking, making any eye contact whatsoever, and acknowledging anyone’s presence. His obsessions became his world and anyone who tried to stop him from engaging in that world was unwelcome. The diagnosis.....Autism. And eventually Hyperlexia, Focal Seizure Disorder, Severe Sensory Processing Disorder, and 4 more issues were added to this unfortunate list that now defined our child. Then came the stomach problems.....so severe that no diet changes or medicines could halt them. He spent the better part of a 2 year span in the hospital. Eventually a rare device called a Chait Button was implanted in his abdomen to daily do the work his colon could not. His stomach problems didn’t stop there. They persisted to include Anemia, Severe Bacterial Overgrowths in his G.I. tract, and Gastroparesis (paralysis of the stomach). To keep it simple.....he lives in pain....everyday. In an effort to improve Cannon’s quality of life, we are seeking to acquire this amazing animal. To love him, to bond with him, to guide him, to comfort him, and to protect him from himself and the world around him.
Cannon's life is not easy. When you are a person living with Autism.....you can tend to feel like the world around you is trying to attack you. You want to retreat into a world that is safe....one that you create and is all your own. It has been Mark and my mission as Cannon's parents to try to meet him in his world and draw him into ours. And there has been progress. It is slow. But it is there. Things are very far from anyone's version of normal and there will probably always be certain things that will cause him great stress. There is no current cure for Autism. Only therapies, hope, and time.
I have been hearing for years about the amazing work of service dogs. But only recently heard of there being dogs trained to help people living with Autism. In doing research, I have found there to be incredibly positive and successful results in this area. Allowing kids and adults alike to calm the storm inside, gain independence, and take on situations that once caused them intense stress with confidence.
An Autism Service Dog can be trained to do many things. Meltdowns (which are way more severe in nature than any temper tantrum) are currently a huge part of our daily life both in public and in private. These amazing service animals are trained to respond to various commands or cues to provide comfort, calm, and pressure to the person's body when needed. Meeting the person's physical, emotional, and sensory needs while also helping them to pause and re-focus. The dog will also be trained to be tethered to Cannon and then fastened onto a leash held by a parent. This will help Cannon learn to walk independently in public instead of bolting away constantly. The thought of not having to put my giant 7 year old in the shopping cart at the grocery store makes me smile. Ah....a little slice of normalcy! Think of the independence and confidence this will bring him! But, if he WERE to ever get away, this would be the best animal ON EARTH to track him. (Wandering is a gi-normous problem in the Autism community.) The dog may even be taught to alert to seizures if our families seizure issues persist. And sleep......I hear that children with such dogs tend to sleep better! Oh what a joy that would be! :) Overall, one of our biggest hopes for this process is that Cannon will build on his newfound independence and confidence and be more willing to try new things, be more social, and/or do things that have scared him in the past. To branch out and allow himself to be a true part of our world. Not just a reluctant visitor in it. :)
So, friends, family, and anyone else out there reading this.....it is with a very humbled heart that I ask you to come alongside us. To help us in our partnership with 4 Paws for Ability. To make this chance at a calmer, happier, more independent, and safe life a reality for some very special people. Hopefully our special little man. The one and only Cannon Luke. Our precious gift that we believe could truly, truly benefit from living and working daily with this incredible animal. May God bless you as you go forth from this page....whether a donation is made or not. We thank you for taking the time to read this. Prayer is our most powerful tool on this journey we are embarking on. Doing that for us could mean all the difference. Many, MANY thanks and MUCH LOVE!
Mark, Kimberly, Cannon, and Townsend
P.S. - Here are a couple of videos highlighting the work of 4 Paws for Ability......
Another video that I just found so interesting......
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*Many thanks for your support -- and don't forget to forward this to anyone who you think might want to donate too!