ALEXANDRIA, VA–Bonita (Bo) Van Pelt is just like every other child; she loves to play outside and make friends and dress up.
Except, Bo has Autism and FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders), which makes life for her more challenging than for other children, especially this year, a year that has been more challenging than imaginable for everyone.
To ease these challenges, Bo’s family is seeking a service dog through 4 Paws for Ability, a service dog placement program based in Xenia, Ohio.
Most service dogs are placed with veterans and adults with other disabilities, but 4 Paws for Ability places dogs with a range of clients, including children with disabilities, worldwide.
“4 Paws for Ability serves children with all kinds of disabilities,” says Bo’s mother, J-Lynn Van Pelt. “They’ve been so amazing, they seemed like a perfect place.”
The service dog placement program is a long and expensive process.
Bo has already been approved for an Autism/FASD Service Dog.
Now, Bo and her family must raise $17,000 to be placed in a “doggy group” to get matched with a dog.
Thus, the Get Bo A Buddy fundraiser was born.
Social media is a powerful tool in this day-in-age, and it is made even more so when it is employed for something good. So, J-Lynn knew Facebook would be the perfect avenue to spread word of this fundraiser far and fast.
J-Lynn explains, “Because they match them by child, it’s basically a two year process. If we can get the money this month, we will definitely get matched within 2 years, which will put Bo right in middle school.”
Middle school is a difficult time for any child, but for Bo, it will present unique obstacles that she will need help overcoming.
A service dog will be able to go with Bo to school and any other places she might care to adventure: the grocery store, therapeutic after care, or simply around the neighborhood.
Bo loves engaging in her community, and a service dog will help her and her whole family do so more easily.
J-Lynn says, “In times like this where we are just overwhelmed, the dog will be a huge asset in our home and in the community. It will help keep our family engaged. We are very hopeful the dog can provide more independence for Bo.”
Bo is very excited about the dog. “He will help me and give me kisses,” she says.
Bo has also been helping her mother with a part of the fundraiser: The 12 Days of Service Dog Christmas. Each day, Bo picks a picture of herself, which J-Lynn posts on Facebook, so people can get to know Bo more, what she likes, and what light she brings to the community.
This year has been isolating in more ways than one, and it has been more isolating for some than for others. For Bo and her family, a service dog will be “transformative.”
J-Lynn explains, “Families with children that are impacted by autism or FASD are often very isolated. The fact a service dog will help us interact with the world is pretty incredible to me. Bo will have something to talk about with another kid on the playground; it will be an indicator of her disability and an icebreaker for friends.”
The year is coming to a close, but Bo’s service dog journey is just beginning.
Bo and her family seek the love and support of their community to reach their goal of $17,000.
For Bo’s family, J-Lynn says, “It would be the best Christmas gift ever!”
You can find the Facebook campaign and donate to Bo’s cause here: https://www.facebook.com/donate/238464574368240/