Freshman Kaelie DeHeer has been dreaming of a service dog for 5 years. Her family applied to go through the process of getting a dog 4 years ago with an organization, but saw little progress being made. Last summer, they choose to try again with a different company, Domesti Pups. They found out about this company through Rhonda Showman. Her son, freshman Nick Showman, has a service dog named Harley. Currently, DeHeer’s family is in the process of making her long time dream come true.
“A service dog will increase the level of independence Kaelie has, and allow her to do more things on her own. It will allow Kaelie to do more things without other people having to help. Kaelie’s service dog will be able to pick things up that are dropped, or located somewhere else (remote control, phone, etc.). It will be able to help with opening or closing doors, assisting with pulling manual chair up ramps or inclined, provide leverage for Kaelie to push against or pull on to reposition. We started looking into a service dog approximately 5 years ago. We applied with an organization 4 years ago, but didn’t see a lot of progress, so we looked into Domesti-Pups about a year ago,” said Tina Uitermarkt, DeHeer’s mom.
DeHeer agrees that the service dog will increase her level of independence.
“My disability (Cerebral Palsy) affects my muscle tone. I can’t walk or pick up things, so the service dog will be there to be second pair of eyes if If fall down or need something picked up.”
While the dog will be beneficial for the family, it will also cost a lot of money. Originally, the dog cost 28,00 dollars. However, the DeHeers applied for a scholarship with the company, and it will pay for half of it. Kaelie and her family have been selling t-shirts and subway cards to raise the money. As of right now, they have 6,000 dollars, planning to sell more t-shirts after the holidays.
Besides the current fundraisers, the family will also host a benefit dinner on March 24th. It will be held at the Pella Golf and Country Club. The details are still being planned but there will be a live and silent auction along with a supper.
In addition, the family received financial aid through a program called Red Basket. This company also wrote an article about their dog search to spread the word.
“Before Kaelie’s campaign was published to their website, they sent us some interview questions to answer. They took our answers and wrote a short article to be included on her campaign page to help people understand why we are fundraising. They have handled the creation and maintenance of the webpage for Kaelie’s campaign. They are a 501c3 organization (aka Non Profit). That means any contributions made to Kaelie’s campaign on their website is tax deductible. They keep the records for these contributions, and send receipts to those who contribute. They will also send any funds raised directly to Domesti-Pups for us. In short, Red Basket is managing our fundraising through them, so all we had to do was provide the initial information for the article and a picture for them to use,” explained Uitermarkt.
The DeHeers hope to get the dog in June. After that, they will have to train him. Other than it being a service dog, they believe it will also be a pet.
“Kaelie’s service dog is considered to be “medical equipment” by ADA laws. What this means is she can take her dog with her to any public place she visits, and it is protected under those laws,” said Uitermarkt. “We plan for Kaelie and her dog to be together almost all the time. Also, we LOVE dogs at our house, so it will definitely be a member of the family, and spoiled rotten.”