Putting smiles on youngsters faces is what the Mickey's Kids foundation sets out to do with every effort that goes into sponsoring a Canine Assistants service dog for special needs children.
Tom Meli, who founded the charitable foundation with his wife Michele, got to see many smiling faces this month while witnessing a Canine Assistants graduation where the foundation's a youngster with cerebral palsy, met his new best friend, Blush.
Meli said it was an incredible thing to be a part of, and very satisfying to see the smiles on the faces of these children who now have these very special dogs in their lives.
Canine Assistants breeds and trains the dogs to respond to a multidude of commands. For example, the dogs can open doors and pick things up for children who are wheelchair bound, and can sense seizures before they happen in youngsters with epillepsy. Overall the dogs help these special needs children gain some independence.
Since the Melis learned of Canine Assistants several years ago it's become the sole organization they fundraise for every year. It costs roughly $25,000 to raise and train these dogs and Mickey's Kids works towards the goal of raising enough funds to able them to help one to two children get a service dog each year.
One of the special things about Canine Assistants is the children don't pick the dogs, the dogs pick them. Meli says it was amazing to witness the way Blush just naturally navigated over to Jakob.
Young Jakob uses a walker to help him walk and his parents have said they hope the dog will enable him to no longer need the device.
Meli was there for the final days leading up to graduation, the final step in a two-week long process where the child and family members train with the dog. While he was there he also met a youngster named Greg whose service dog Mickey, was named by Canine Assistants in honor of the Mickey's Kids Foundation.
Meli also got to meet Gunny, the sister of his dog Liberty, a education and therapy dog given to them by Canine Assitants who now serves as the offiical spokes dog. As a puppy Liberty was found
"They are really solid people," Meli says of the Canine Assistans organization. "They really do this right." The organization based in Georgia was started by Jennifer Arnold, who as a teen had been diagnosed with an advancing case of multiple sclerosis who vowed to start an organization on the East Coast to help make life easier for others in need by raising these special dogs.
Mickey's Kids main fundraiser each year is a gala event featuring dancing, live entertainment, raffles and much more. This year's event "Dancing Under the Stars Act VI" is coming up on March 22 at Ill Villaggio in Carlstadt.
The event features professional dancers, singers, full buffet dinner, wine and beer and soda for $125 per seat. All profits from the event are donated to Canine Assistants. Meli says Arnold will once again be at the event representing Canine Assistants and many of their recipients will be joining them as a special guests as well.
For more information contact the Melis at 201-288-1070.