Secret Samaritan: Child with autism gets service dog
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - At first blush, Alex looks and acts like any other elementary school student. He's got bright eyes and is full of energy, but Alex is not like other kids.
He has several chronic health issues. He needs a feeding tube. Alex also has autism, and sometimes his happy demeanor turns angry - on occasion, violent.
Just last week, his grandma had to go pick him up at school. It's a day Jerri Moes won't soon forget.
"I walked in that room, and he had it torn apart," she said. "He'd knocked over book shelves, things were off the desks - he had thrown water beads and they didn't know how to calm him."
The family was at a loss when it came to calming his sudden outbursts. There were options on the table, but they were all just too expensive.
"His doctor suggested a service dog, and everywhere I looked, they were like $15,000 or $25,000, which that is BIG bucks," said Jerri.
Selling the family car was a consideration, but then Jerri stumbled across a possibility on the internet - specifically, Curt Autry's Facebook page. It's where she learned about the Secret Samaritan, a multi-millionaire in the Richmond area, committed to helping one family a week get a fresh start on life.
Within weeks of filling out the application, the family learned their wish had been granted.
With the money secured, Matt from Off Leash K-9 entered the picture. Jerri had recently purchased a chocolate lab mix puppy named Clover. She's just 19 weeks old, the perfect age to begin training to be a service dog. To become the K-9 companion that Alex needs takes time - well into 2018 - but according to dog trainer Matthew Ferramosca, it will be worth it.
"We essentially introduce her to her basic obedience commands, start to socialize her and desensitize her to high-level distractions. So when she starts going places with Alex, she's already been to Home Depot, she's already been to school," he said.
Jerri is convinced that Clover will become a calming influence on Alex. For the first time in a long time, this grandmother has hope for his future.
"The world is going to open up for Alex and for us," she said. "Because if we can do more as a family, that gives Alex and Mason a chance to go out and be part of a community."
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