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Mickey's Kids Bring a Youngster One Step Closer to His New Best Friend

Heights based foundation sponsors a Canine Assistants service dog for a young boy with muscular dystrophy

It was a special night for young Danny Garofalo on Wednesday. He was surrounded by friends, family, balloons and gifts. But best of all the gathering was all about bringing Danny one step closer to his new best friend.

Thanks to Mickey’s Kids, a foundation led by Hasbrouck Heights couple Tom and Michele Meli, Danny, who has duchenne muscular dystrophy, will head to Georgia where he will meet his new best friend - a service dog from Canine Assistants,  an organization that raises and trains service dogs for children with disabilities such as muscular dystrophy, multiple scleroris and epilepsy.

Danny and his family, who are from Middlesex, will attend a two-week training camp where he will be matched with his service dog and learn how to utilize the dogs for his specific needs through practice sessions, lectures and more. At the end of the two weeks, Canine Assistants hosts a graduation ceremony where Danny and his family will celebrate the two weeks of hard work and bonding with other recipients who are there to receive service dogs.

Mickey’s Kids recent annual gala event “Dancing Under the Stars” raised $32,000 which enabled them to sponsor a  service dog for a child in need.

Jennifer Garofalo, Danny’s mother, became overwhelmed with emotion as she thanked Mickey’s Kids. She said this will open so many doors for Danny who has always been shy but his service dog will make him so much more sociable.  

Guests at Ill Villagio in Carlstadt where the reception was held Wednesday, heard from Kate Miller, a young woman with epilepsy who told everyone how the frequency of seizures has substantially decreased since she’s had her service dog Greta. Her dog has already saved her life at least once as she had collapsed in her school bathroom and Greta was able to open the door to get help.

It costs $25,000 to sponsor one of these dogs. Tom Meli has explained  that those funds support everything from raising and training the dog, to providing for it its whole life including veterinarian bills. Mickey’s Kids also supports transportation to and from the Canine Assistants facility, lodging and food although much of the food is provided by the organization’s volunteers, explained Sue Harrison, director of Canine Assistants.

Going forward, the Melis believe that Canine Assistants will be the organization their foundation mainly supports. Their goal is to raise funds to sponsor at least one dog for a child per year but if they can do two sponsorships per year, they most certainly will.

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