By Danielle Coots
Greene County News
GREENE COUNTY — The Wagner family hosted their first fundraising event to help raise money for their son Nick Wagner, a 4th grader at Fairbrook Elementary, to obtain a service dog from 4 Paws for Ability. All proceeds go to 4 Paws for Ability in the Wagner’s account.
Kate and Jeff Wagner adopted two infant baby boys after being their foster parents. Their oldest, Nick was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder after his parents started questioning his developmental milestones at about 6 to 9 months. Kate took her son from doctor to doctor then to specialists to find answers.
The Wagners started working with Help Me Grow and Children’s Services to try to get the help they needed. The organizations helped guide them and provided needed resources. They recommended that she take Nick to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The minute the doctor saw Nick, she said, he has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The Wagners knew his birth mother had taking drugs during some part of her pregnancy, but that was all the information they were provided.
Nick exhibits some of the facial characteristics of this disorder, so the doctor knew right away. “His head size has never even made it on the growth chart at the doctor’s office. His brain is smaller and doesn’t work the same as others,” Kate said.
Nick was diagnosed around one years old. Since his diagnosis, the Wagners haven’t been able to find many local resources. She found that many of the resources are in areas where the population is high in Native Americans, such as North Dakota, Alaska, and Minnesota.
During Kate’s research, she came across a service that provide service dogs to those in need. In addition, Nick was in a 4H group and did a donation drive for a service project for 4 Paws for Ability.
“That’s when I really began to understand what they did as far as service dogs,” she said. “It’s my understanding that 4 Paws has one of the only programs for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome service dogs in the local area.”
In Nick’s situation, the service dog will help soothe him and comfort him while sleeping. This is something that has been very difficult for Nick since infancy. He wakes up cries out a lot, sleep talks and gets out of bed at least once a night. So they are hoping that the dog will provide a calming influence on him.
Nick is also very impulsive and has high anxiety. The dog will be trained to help him with these issues as well. Nick also has a tendency to roam away. The dog will be trained to track Nick should he become missing. It will also be trained to help Nick with his problem of repeating himself over and over again, with just a nudge of the nose, just enough to distract Nick’s thoughts.
“I’m so excited to get my service dog,” Nick said.
“All the donations go to 4 Paws for Ability. It doesn’t go to Nick or to our family, it’s just like you earmark the money to benefit Nick. So, when he reaches his goal, we can go forward to the classes. It takes about $24,000 to train a service dog. So, the families enter a contract to raise a certain amount to help the organization stay afloat because it’s so expensive,” Kate said. The family has to raise $15,000 for the service dog.
After the family raises the agreed amount, they will be scheduled for a class to learn about their dog and the services it will provide to Nick. It takes approximately two years to get the class and the service dog.
“This all began with the idea of having a small garage sale in our garage and driveway and quickly turned into this big event and we are so grateful. It’s bigger than we expected and that’s wonderful. So, until this is all over with, the other fundraising ideas that we have are on the back burner,” she said. “I’ve found that people are very generous and really willing to help.”
Check out Nick’s New World on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NicksNewWorld.com for more fundraising events or to make a donation. Direct donations can be made to: 4 Paws for Ability, 253 Dayton Avenue, Xenia, OH 45385. Please put Nick Wagner in the memo line of the check when making a payment.
Danielle Coots is a freelance writer for Greene County News.