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Samantha Hamilton

Last year my five year old cousin, Kaycee, was diagnosed with a seizure disorder, which has progressively gotten worse and cannot be managed with medication.  My aunt and uncle have taken her to several doctors, specialists and not to mention have made several trips to the emergency room.  With no avail, the doctors have not been able to determine the sudden onset of the seizures or the best course of treatment. Over the course of the past year, my aunt and uncle have learned that, due to the type of seizures Kaycee has as well as the sudden onset, she is at risk for S.U.D.E.P (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy Patients).  As Kaycee has a wide range of seizures, from staring off to full convulsive, at any time her breathing can be compromised, especially at night while she is asleep. Currently, Kaycee sleeps next to my aunt and uncle.  Needless to say, they are aware of every movement she makes and they are not getting much sleep.  She is currently on a recipient waitlist for a bed seizure monitor, but it will only detect convulsive seizure activity.  With a lot of research and networking with other parents of children who have seizure disorders, my aunt and uncle decided it was time to work towards getting a service dog specifically trained in detecting seizures.

The process of obtaining a service dog is a long one. The dog is selected while it is a puppy and is put through basic testing to determine if it is suitable for training. The trainer will then work with the pup for eighteen to twenty-four months.  Once the pup is grown and trained it goes through the certification process to become a service dog.  After the certification, the dog is then released to the recipient.  Each year after, the dog has to go through refresher training and recertification process. The only downside of purchasing the service dog is the cost.  For this particular training, the service dog will cost upwards of $10,000.  My aunt and uncle were overwhelmed and devastated at the mere thought of coming up with this much money, but they were determined.  My aunt initiated an online campaign through redbasket.org and was able to raise half of the needed funds.  But they needed more help in fundraising to meet their goal.  My mom organized a bowling fundraiser, complete with a 50/50 drawing, silent auction, bowling and also, a raffle which proved to be the most beneficial.

A 50 inch television was donated for the raffle, so there was no cost involved in purchasing an item to raffle.  In order to entice people to purchase the raffle tickets, the tickets to be sold were limited.   The tickets sales started prior to the scheduled fundraiser event, however, if the tickets were all sold prior to the event, we were going to hold the last ticket and raffle chances off at the event for the remaining ticket.  We sold the tickets for five dollars each, however, when people found out there was a limited number to be sold, they would buy multiple. 

The day of the fundraising event, we were concerned of what kind of turn out we would have and we ended up having raffle tickets for the television left to bring and sell at the event.  Would we meet our goal and sell the rest of the raffle tickets?  When doors opened, people started to file into the room where we were having the event.  As time went, more people came.  Needless to say the overwhelming support for my cousin and family was truly humbling.  The silent auction was a big success, the bowling went great, the 50/50 drawing went great (the winner donated back their half of the 50/50) and we sold every ticket for the raffle of the television!  Between all of the components of the fundraiser, we completely exceeded the amount needed for Kaycee’s service dog.  My aunt and uncle were able to put the down payment on the service dog and set up an account to continue to pay for the dog until it is ready to be released.  The extra funds will be used for ongoing training, certification and veterinarian visits.

The raffle was considered a large part of the event being a success.  Having an item people were wanting along with limiting the amount of tickets available drew people into the fundraiser and they were more apt to purchase a ticket. I was in awe of the whole process and event, the amount people that were willing to help my cousin and my family was truly a blessing.  A goal that was believed to be out of reach and almost impossible, was turned into a reality.

We were recently talking with my aunt and she informed us that the first pup that was selected failed its tests so the trainer had to search for another.  Thankfully, the new pup passed the testing and is now in training. In the meantime, until the pup is ready to be released to Kaycee, we are continuing to search for answers and the best possible way to make sure Kaycee is safe.  The next few months will entail further in depth testing of Kaycee and