On Saturday, May 14, hundreds of walkers helped to better the world for children with autism and their families as part of BluePath Service Dogs’ sixth annual walkathon. The family-friendly fundraiser raised more than $185,000 to further BluePath’s mission to provide autism service dogs, offering safety, companionship, and opportunities for independence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every 44 children born today will develop an autism spectrum disorder. It is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States.
“Wesley received his autism diagnosis just before turning two,” shared Kate Petersen, whose five-year-old son was matched with BluePath service dog Reba. “The first couple years were an extreme challenge. Wesley’s lack of communication left us all frustrated to the point of tears several times a day. A cough, sneeze or even laugh left him dysregulated, sobbing, or in full meltdown, and sometimes it could last for hours.”
When Wesley was nearly hit after suddenly running into the road during a family walk, the Petersens knew they needed immediate assistance.
“That’s where BluePath Reba came in,” shared Kate. “She is sweet and soulful and intuitive. All business when she is working and a dedicated party girl in her off hours. Reba brings such incredible hope for the future – that we will be able to enjoy a walk on a beautiful day without fear or tragedy, that Wesley can enjoy his favorite things with the grounding presence of his service dog, and that we can finally spend time as a family out in the world, experiencing all life has to offer with this beautiful little dog at Wesley’s side.”
Each BluePath dog comes with thousands of hours of training from dedicated volunteers and professional staff. While the cost to prepare these incredible dogs is upwards of $40,000, BluePath provides its service dogs – and intensive, ongoing follow up support – completely free of charge. Reduced stress, improved sleeping routines, and more meaningful social interactions can allow families to feel a renewed sense of hope and empowerment.
“BluePath dogs provide safety and freedom, opening the door to new possibilities for the whole family to thrive,” noted the nonprofit’s President and CEO Jody Sandler. “This year’s walkathon was an incredible celebration of our growing community and our most successful fundraising event to date. We are so grateful for this year’s supporters; together we are making a positive and lasting difference in so many lives.”
BluePath Service Dogs, Inc. is located in Hopewell Junction. They can be reached at 845-377-0477 or by visiting www.bluepathservicedogs.org. For the latest news and updates, follow @BluePathServiceDogs on Facebook and @BluePathDogs on Instagram.