Susan Hardee Steger
As a volunteer for Project Chance, 12 year old Jakob and his 13 month old English Cream Golden Retriever have work to do. The morning begins with a walk outside, feeding, grooming, and hours of disciplined training. Jakob faces the daily challenges of Asperger’s Syndrome, a developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others, but now he has support from a specially trained service dog named “Campbell” who will be considered fully trained when she is a year and a half old.
Other puppies have rotated through Jakob’s home during training, but it is clear Jakob and Campbell are simply a planned pair.
Through Project Chance, Jakob and his family volunteered to train Campbell for 10 months. By the end of the training period, Campbell is prepared to move to a permanent home, but the remarkable progress Jakob has made with Campbell at his side, makes the upcoming transition unbearable.
Campbell is not only a benefit for Jakob, but for the mother of five, Melanie. Nighttime can be a challenge for Jakob. Along with Asperger’s, Jakob has a sensory dysfunction that can be soothed by adding pressure to the body. Weighted blankets provide relief for some, but not for Jakob. With Campbell next to Jakob the nights are less difficult.
At Sliders Grill on Sunday, December 16 at 4:00 p.m. until closing, George Stewart’s goal is to raise $8,000 so that 12 year old Jakob can have Campbell forever. It was Stewart’s wife who recognized the need to help after reading an article about Jakob and Project Chance. Stewart, owner of the popular Sliders Grill, holds events during the off season that focus on helping others. This is the biggest fundraiser so far.
For four years, B.J. Szwedzinski, Project Chance Director has placed 16 dogs in private homes to help individuals like Jakob. Considering other organizations collect from $15,000 to as high as $26,000 for dogs such as Campbell, the $8000 collected is a bargain. Preparing dogs for placement is very costly. With a $2000 price tag to obtain a puppy, $1500 for various vet bills, transportation, crates, training trips to acclimate dogs to crowded conditions, elevators, escalators, food costs and more it is clear this is not a money making operation, but one that began out of a sincere desire to help others. Funds collected once a dog is placed are spent toward purchasing another dog and the training process begins all over again.
So often, those impacted by Asperger’s Syndrome feel isolated from others. When asked what Jakob likes best about Campbell, his reply is , “companionship.”
For further information on Sliders Grill fundraising event, call 904-277-6652, or mail contributions (payable to the non-profit “Project Chance” ) to Sliders Grill, 1998 South Fletcher Avenue, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034. “Come learn about Jakob and Campbell and be part of something special.”
December 13, 2012 10:15 p.m.