Nov 18, 2023

Over The Edge for CDK

Increasing independence for children with disabilities means helping them get service dogs & expanding community understanding & awareness. Rappelling 110 feet from 120 Front St, Worcester does both! Join us. Support us. Help make more independence!

$2,976Raised of $60,000

Are you ready to go Over the Edge for service dogs & kids?

November 18, 2023- Canines for Disabled Kids invites you to rappel 9 stories from the roof of 120 Front Street, Worcester, MA

Our 3rd annual rappel gives you the rare (annual) chance to experience the thrill of rappelling a building in downtown Worcester while raising awareness & funds to support service dogs & the independence they bring to kids (& adults) with disabilities.

With the event limited to 90 slots, you are encouraged to sign up soon. $50 to register gets you started and secures your event t-shirt.

$1,000 secures your spot to rappel.

Feel better rappelling with a friend? $100 to register and $1,700 secures the spot for both of you.

Want to prove you rappelled? Raise a little more and record your journey. Raise $1250 and bring your personal GoPro. Don't own a GoPro? That's OK - Raise $1500 and you can use ours!

Rappelers also get entered to win great raffle items donated by supporting businesses.

Follow us on social media to see more incentives!

Tips on How to Join

1) Click Join

2) select Individual or Team

3) Input 110 feet for your Rappelling Goal (this helps people understand how far you will go to support kids and service dogs)

4) Personalize your page

5) Have Fun raising money, expanding awareness


Every Dollar Makes a Difference

A Dog Worth Fighting For: The Story of Austin and Paris

Along Came Paris Watching Paris, a 3 ½ year old Golden Retriever, gently interacting with her companion, nine-year-old Austin, you see the beautiful bond between them. Ericha, Austin’s mom says, “It’s clear that they were meant for each other. They had an instant connection. Paris was a complete godsend.” With her buttercream coloring, soulful dark chocolate eyes and the temperament of an angel, it’s hard to believe this seizure alert dog was the subject of a dispute between her family and the local school district. Their battle to keep Paris by Austin’s side while at school even made the local news in Franklin, Massachusetts. This is their story. Austin is a typical third grade boy. He loves Star Wars, Mario Cart and Legos. Austin would play video games all day if he could, and he’s certain his vocational calling is to be a gamer when he grows up. But unlike most children his age, Austin has a seizure disorder resulting from several rare brain malformations. For years it caused him to have global seizures and 1-2 grand mal seizures a month. Austin’s mom, Ericha, says the seizures were frightening, especially when they would happen during the night. “I would only know if Austin was having a seizure in the night if he was sleeping with me in bed,” says Ericha. “I was afraid not to be around him because I knew of all the bad things that could happen if the seizure would last too long. Even though I was prepared, and knew the correct response, I would feel panic when a seizure happened.” When someone suggested she look into a seizure alert dog, Ericha became hopeful and excited. A dog would alert to Austin’s seizures, giving them a chance to respond more quickly and minimize any negative effects. Ericha’s initial concern was finding an organization that would place a dog with Austin, since he was only six years old at the time. “We found 4 Paws for Ability in Xenia, Ohio, and they were willing to work with us, as long as an adult was physically in control of the dog at all times,” says Ericha. “I learned of Canines For Disabled Kids when we began raising funds for the cost of Austin’s dog.” Canines for Disabled Kids supports service dog partnerships for children, including those under age 12, who often don’t qualify for service dog programs. Through their scholarship programs and educational outreach, Canines for Disabled Kids helps children with deafness, autism spectrum disorders, mobility challenges and other disabilities increase their independence. Canines for Disabled Kids helped Ericha in many ways, the first being awarding a scholarship to help defray the expense of obtaining a service dog for Austin. Helping with a Diagnosis Paris and Austin bonded immediately, but more importantly, she began alerting to seizures all the time. “The doctors and I did not know Austin was having near constant seizures. We thought they were mostly happening at night, but Paris was alerting us all the time,” explains Ericha. “We had additional testing done and it turned out, Paris was right. Austin’s seizures were subclinical, deep in his brain, and so we weren’t aware of them.” “Paris smelled the chemical change and began alerting us by licking him. She only licks him when there is a chemical change, indicating a seizure is about to happen. If he is having an active seizure, Paris will bark. Those are the only times Paris will lick or bark.” Ericha adds that because Paris was so intent on alerting to Austin’s seizures, from the first day they brought her home, that she helped the doctors diagnose and treat his seizure disorder. In the last 2 ½ years Austin has been doing really well, and has been free of seizures for over 100 days, as of this writing! “I really can’t say enough about Paris. If she hadn’t alerted us to the subclinical seizures that we didn’t know Austin was having, who knows how long we would have been dealing with this, and not effectively treating his seizure disorder.” A Dog Worth Fighting For Because Austin was having seizures constantly, and they were interfering with his daily activities, Ericha wanted Paris to accompany Austin to school. Paris could possibly save Austin’s life. Unfortunately, the Franklin School District put up a fight, saying that according to ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act) they had no responsibility to care for or feed a service animal. The district told Ericha that she could either hire a handler or be Paris’ handler herself. Neither option was financially feasible for Ericha, a single mom. “I was so upset, trying to explain to them that a seizure alert dog is a medical alert dog. I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t see how Paris was a lifesaving benefit for Austin. She would also benefit the staff who would have to tend to Austin, and potentially spare the other children from witnessing a scary medical event.” The school district brought a lawyer to a meeting, which Ericha felt was meant to intimidate her, but she wasn’t backing down. Support from Canines for Disabled Kids That’s when Kristin Hartness, The Executive Director of Canines for Disabled Kids stepped in. “Kristen came with me to meet with the school district,” says Ericha. “Kristin has a great knowledge of ADA and how the law applies to service dogs. She explained to the school district that just because the law says that a school district doesn’t have to provide care for a service dog, that doesn’t mean that it can’t provide care.” “With Kristin’s vast knowledge of the law and how it pertained to service dogs, we made some progress with the school. Kristin educated them. They had a greater understanding of the law and our position, but they still didn’t want to budge.” Ericha continued to advocate for Austin. “I was not about to give up. Austin had a one-to-one aide…if she could push him in a wheelchair, why couldn’t she hold Paris’ leash?” Ericha took Austin and Paris’ story to the local news media who featured their story on television. “Again, Kristin Hartness and Canines for Disabled Kids really went to bat for me,” Ericha explains. “Kristin guided me through the process of talking with the media. She helped me educate the reporter and the public on what the laws were and why we were asking for them to provide a handler for Paris to attend school with Austin.” “I owe a lot to Kristin because she taught me how to effectively and professionally talk to the media so that there was no negative backlash to our family.” After the story aired, Ericha received great public support for her cause, and the school district eventually decided to hire a dedicated handler for Paris. Kristin met with the school staff to coach them on how to integrate a medical alert dog into the school day. She also met with the students, explaining what a service dog does and how they could and could not interact with Paris. Now Paris accompanies Austin to school every day. Paris alerts to Austin’s seizures and, when seizure medications were making him sick, she helped him walk. Without Paris by Austin’s side with a special harness, Austin would have needed a wheelchair. Words are not Required In addition to seizures, Austin’s brain malformations cause him to have a severe speech delay. His speech is muffled and often difficult for others to understand. A communication device helps, but Austin would prefer to use his mouth to speak like other children. Ericha says that Austin gets very frustrated when people can’t understand him. Paris is also trained in behavior disruption. When she senses Austin’s frustration growing, she will put her paws on his lap to remind him to refocus. If Austin is still struggling to remain in control, Paris will put her head on his lap so that he can pet the smooth hair on her head, which instantly helps him relax. With the command “over” Paris puts her body weight on Austin, as a form of deep pressure stimulation to help him calm down. “We use that command quite often at school,” says Ericha. “Paris is like Austin’s live weighted blanket.” When Austin can’t speak, or isn’t speaking the way he wants to, Paris’ gentle touches show Austin that sometimes words are not required. Momma Dog “Paris has improved our lives in so many ways, I can’t even count them. I can’t even remember what life was like before her…she has brought so much joy and security into our lives.” “Because of Paris, Austin has the independence of sleeping in his own bed. Austin can play with his friends at the playground or participate on a sports team with Paris a few steps away. I don’t have to hover over him.” Of course Ericha is nearby, but it is definitely much cooler to have Paris by his side as he romps with the other children. Ericha laughs, “We call her Momma Dog. She’s like his second mother. She is always watching him, just so naturally in tune to what he is doing. They have so much fun together.” “Austin loves to wear costumes of his favorite characters and we dress Paris up too. She’s been Princess Leia from Star Wars a few times. They both dress up for Spirit Week at school. Paris even gets her picture with Austin on school picture day.” Thanks to Ericha’s standing up for her son’s needs, with the help of Kristin Hartness and Canines for Disabled Kids, Austin and Paris will be attending school together for many years to come. Ericha has advice for other families facing challenges with their child’s service dog. “Go with your gut and don’t stop fighting for what you believe in. It would have been very easy for me to listen to the school district and not send Paris to school with Austin. But, if I hadn’t fought for Paris to be there, she wouldn’t have figured out that he was having seizure activity all day. Stick to your guns and be an advocate for your child.” And if you’re lucky, you’ll have an organization like Canines for Disabled Kids in your corner, helping you help your child live the most independent life possible. Note: Paris is almost ready to retire and Austin is preparing for his successor dog! By Janis D. Gioia ~ Janis Gioia special education teacher who writes for organizations supporting children and adults with disabilities and mental health challenges. Her website, offers articles and resources to help children with anxiety and autism spectrum disorders.