Kaneland Connection: Sugar Grove family grateful for support in effort to get service dog for son

SUGAR GROVE – Gretchen Mann said family members feel “blessed and fortunate” to have raised thousands of dollars in an effort to bring a specially trained dog into the life of her 5-year-old son, Marshall.

Marshall, who has been diagnosed with autism, could be helped by a service dog, his family said. The Manns have been assisted by those who would know, including others with children who have a dog, as well as the Elburn Lions Club, which has been active in helping such campaigns in the past.

So far, $8,745 has been raised in the effort, which has a goal of $14,000 to help pay for a trained dog from 4 Paws For Ability, a nonprofit organization.

Part of the 4 Paws mission is training the dogs and providing them to youths, such as Marshall, who would be helped by them.

Information can be found online at www.razoo.com/story/An-Autism-Service-Dog-For-Marshall.

Gretchen Mann said Marshall has “a tendency to bolt,” and he could be tethered to the dog, or the dog can be trained to track him.

He can help with interventions, she said. If he is having a tough time, she said the dog can “provide a calming mechanism to kind of diffuse the frustration or the anger or whatnot that could be occurring at the time.”

The dog can provide companionship and help with outings. She said it “is somewhat difficult” to go outside with Marshall.

It is a long process, which Gretchen Mann said she understands. The money has to be raised, and then the training begins, and that process can take more than a year.

But she said she has learned how it can help. Carrie Capes, who was a substitute teacher in one of Marshall’s early-childhood class, has such a dog to help with her son, Max.

Also, another student in Marshall’s class had a dog, which was allowed in class, and Capes said Marshall was “very drawn to that dog.”

“He’s a sweet, sweet boy,” said Capes, who is the program director at Maple Park-based HorsePower Therapeutic Riding.

Capes said the dogs can help with those who might have the risk of running away, because “they want to be with their dog.” The dogs become much more than helpers, she said, as they become calming influences and, for those who might have difficulty expressing themselves, valued companions.

“Maybe the most important thing is to have a child have a best friend,” Capes said.

The Elburn Lions Club will offer some help in the effort, with a fundraiser in the works. In 2012, the Lions Club helped with the effort to provide a service dog for Kara Peters, a Virgil teen who was diagnosed with autism.

• Al Lagattolla is the news editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at alagattolla@shawmedia.com.