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A Thankful Thanksgiving

Cassidy & Mercy

· Mission Accomplished,Autism

"For the record, Cass took Mercy's bed. This was not our idea." Mom, Chris, posted this picture on Facebook with a smile and a laugh shortly after Mercy joined their family a little less than a year ago. Chris and her husband fall into the minority of Autism Spectrum families, having a daughter on the spectrum where 1 in 68 children will be diagnosed on the spectrum, 1 in 42 boys. Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the U.S. and there is no medical detection or cure. And so when Cass's family reached out to W.A.G.S. 4 Kids they were seeking interactions, connections, and a partner in crime for Cassidy.

We first met Cassidy in the fall of 2015, her laughter and smile were and still are...contagious. A fun-loving child, she was diagnosed with Autism at two years old and is non-verbal. Cassidy is constantly on the move, looking for hugs, kisses, or racing up and down the hallway. Crowds, loud noises and routine changes induce anxiety with Cassidy. She will plug her ears, lick her lips, and vocalize loudly. Cassidy likes to spend her time watching shows on her iPad; some over and over again until the power runs out. Before even having met Mercy, the family imagined the benefits of a service dog to promote verbal communication & help Cassidy build relationship skills that she lacked. "She will be able to pet & give it hugs to her service dog, this would help ease her anxiety. She would know that the service dog is with her at all times and take comfort in its presence." said Mom, Chris back in 2015 during her initial intake interview.

Like any parent, their goal was to have Cassidy reach her fullest potential and providing her with a service dog would help her gain confidence, independence, emotional support, and a friend

Ask and ye shall receive! Now the two seem inseparable. "She looks for Mercy and tolerates Mercy in her space. Where Cassidy goes, Mercy is right behind her. Mercy's whole demeanor and tasks like "cuddle" and "love" have given Cassidy a new calm and focus in a once somewhat chaotic world. Mercy really lives up to her namesake. She's been a blessing."

Not to leave Big Sis, Cayce, out. The whole family is overjoyed with the new addition. "We love you guys. It's been a great experience for our Cass!!"

In the next 3 years, we look forward to sharing even more stories like Cassidy's. Like Logan's. Like Kayla's. And so many more kids that are now anxiously awaiting their Autism Spectrum Service Dog.  We say at W.A.G.S. 4 Kids that we are driven to serve a family as early in a child's life as there is a need and an interest. We are proud to say that thanks to you - your help in supporting our kids in fundraising and spreading the word of W.A.G.S. 4 Kids - the interest has never been greater. Each week we get no less than 3 requests to apply for a service dog. 97% of those requests in 2016 have been for an Autism Spectrum Service Dog. So, guess what we'll be doing for the next few years? Training Autism Spectrum Service Dogs to specifically meet the needs of the kids who need them most. The answer is always yes. You only need ask.

In 2017, we are excited to spread our wings to Central Ohio where we will soon be announcing a new workforce development program at a location to be solidified just in time for us all to make our new years resolutions. We are resolved in one thing. To reach out and help more kids, more families, to say yes more often and more quickly, not just for the kids and families asking today but for the families who have yet to find us. This is where you come in. This is what you help us do. This is the joy you create. Every dog. Every child. Every word. Every milestone. It is because of you. We are still and forever more the charity that Cleveland grew and no matter how far our reach may take us we will never forget our roots or who got us there. Our kids keep us humble - they are challenged everyday and live with more joy than I could ever fathom. And still, they rise to meet and exceed every hurdle set before them. How can we not do the same? I truly believe we were all put on this Earth to serve and help others. I have seen to some degree how bad it can be, and how amazing it can be. I won't stop chasing this dream. Thanks to all in the W.A.G.S. 4 Kids community for having the same desire to help, to spread your knowledge. Some times you have to take a leap of faith and that's exactly what we look forward to doing with you in 2017. Our kids dream big and so do we. To make their dreams come true.

Happy Thanksgiving! From Our Family, To Your Family

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