By Erin Weaver firstname.lastname@example.org
A $13,000 price tag for a puppy might be a little high, but Kyelynn Goering isn’t getting a regular puppy. The 5-year-old has Dravet syndrome, a rare form of childhood epilepsy caused by a genetic mutation that affects the way electric currents are processed in the brain, causing seizures. The Goering family has been working to get Kye a seizure and multipurpose service dog. The dog would be able to provide Kye with mobility, safety, seizure alert and behavioral guidance. Brad Goering, Kye’s father, said his daughter experienced her first seizure when she was 5 months old. The family spent the next two years trying to figure out what was causing Kye’s seizures and what drugs would help control the episodes.
“Over the last 18 months, Kye has had good seizure control, but there are still development delays, speech delays and behavioral issues,” Goering said. “We looked into getting a service dog that could be alert to when she is having a seizure.” But the first service dog organization that the Goering family tried to use had a long waitlist and continued to push back when the family could expect to get a dog for Kye. “It got to the point that they said she would be 8 years old before she got a dog,” Goering said. “We decided then to try 4 Paws for Ability, an organization that specializes in training service dogs for children.”
4 Paws for Ability had no waitlist, just a requirement that the family fundraise $13,000 for the organization. It costs around $22,000 for 4 Paws for Ability to raise and train a dog. Once the $13,000 is raised, families are placed into the program, and it is a 10- to 11-month process to train a dog specifically to the child’s needs.
With a Nov. 17 fundraiser, Team Kye successfully raised the $13,000 — in just over two months. “We were shocked with how quickly it happened,” Goering said. “We thought for sure that it would take six months or more.” But support for Kye came pouring in, through friends, family, fundraisers and online anonymous donations.
Jodi Carnes also helped the family get sponsors to support the fundraising effort and make donations. Carnes helped the family get corporate sponsors, including Bergey’s in Franconia, Red Robin, Domino’s Pizza in Lansdale and Souderton and Subway in Harleysville. “The support was fantastic,” Carnes said. “Kye’s story was very well-received. Once I told them about Kye, sponsors were very open to helping. I think it helped to mention that she was from a local family.” Goering is originally from Harleysville, and the family currently lives in Perkiomenville.
In less than three months, the Goering family hosted two large fundraisers to reach the $13,000 goal. The first was [Kye’s] Fall Paw Festival, a dog-friendly event for the local community. More recently, Team Kye held a dodgeball tournament [Dodge 4 Kye] Nov. 17 at the Indian Valley YMCA, which raised $2,334. The all-day tournament had 20 teams and an estimated 200 participants and spectators. Team Awesome, a Philadelphia-based professional dodgeball team, helped organize and structure the event for the day.
Steve Bolger, a professional dodgeball player and member of Team Awesome, said that 20 teams and 200 participants is a high turnout for a dodgeball fundraiser. Team Awesome hosts fundraisers and events to support charities across the county, including The Salvation Army and the Los Angeles Food Bank. Bolger teaches dodgeball classes at the Indian Valley YMCA and agreed to get involved when Carnes approached him about doing an event to support Team Kye. “I was really just the face of the event for a day,” Bolger said. “I was just glad to be there to help plan and run the event. I think dodgeball gets a bad stigma for being violent, but kindergartners in schools can play hockey — I’d say that’s even more dangerous. Those kids don’t know how to hold a hockey stick, and end up hurting each other. A lot of people like to play dodgeball, and everyone can enjoy it.”
Bolger brought his dodgeball expertise — and a few fellow professional dodgeball players — to the fundraiser. With the success of the tournament, the Goering family is now entering the next step in the process of getting a dog for Kye. “Right now, we’re filming the family’s daily activities, so 4 Paws for Ability can see what Kye does and what kind of dog she’ll need,” Goering said.
The family is set to go to Ohio in [the Fall of] 2014 to meet Kye’s dog and train with it.
Anyone interested in supporting Team Kye can make a donation to the Kyelynn Goering Foundation at any Univest bank. Funds received will go to epilepsy support services, including the Epilepsy Foundation of Eastern Pennsylvania, the Dravet Syndrome Foundation and 4 Paws for Ability.
More information about Team Awesome’s charity work can be found at teamawesomedodgeball.org.
Follow Erin Weaver on Twitter @ByErinWeaver.