WOLCOTT, Conn. — A Wolcott girl will soon have her own service dog that could change her life. Thirteen-year-old Emma Smith was diagnosed with autism, ADHD, and anxiety last year.
Now, with the help of the community, she is one step closer to getting a new four-legged friend that can help her through these diagnoses.
“She really loves giving to people and giving gifts and figuring out what would be the best gift to give to someone,” said Rebecca Smith.
That’s how she describes her daughter Emma. Now, the tables of kindness have turned and the special gift that she’ll soon be getting is a dog, but just any kind of dog.
“We discovered about a year ago that Emma is autistic and has ADHD and anxiety. One of the things that we noticed when we’re going through the process of getting her diagnosed was that she responds incredibly well to dogs,” said Smith.
We’ve heard the saying “A dog is a man’s best friend” but what about the bond between a young girl and her service dog?
“We noticed that Emma really needed a family dog to love and be with, but we also noticed that our family dog is not enough. He is not trained to do things that will specifically help Emma,” said Smith.
After getting Emma’s diagnosis and prescriptions, the journey to get a new four-legged member of the family started. But it also comes with a hefty price tag that isn’t covered by insurance, $25,000.
“One idea that I just came across was what if we just got the word out to our community in our local 'buy nothing' page and instead of asking for money, asking for donations of bottles and cans and old sneakers,” said Smith.
From this one post in January, the power of social media took off.
“We have been overwhelmed. Almost everything has stemmed from just that one post,” said Smith.
Now three months into their journey, Emma found out some big news over the weekend: $25,000 has been raised.
They’ve collected 55,000 bottles and cans and each elementary school in Wolcott hosted a shoe drive. Through this and with other donations, they collected 700 pairs of sneakers.
“It’s humbling and amazing to know that there is a community that welcoming. Especially when you’re going through something as a family and doing something that will benefit my daughter, it’s amazing,” said Smith.
This became a community effort. People like Christina Gorham selling her custom-made dog earrings. All proceeds go straight to Emma.
“There’s so much negative in the world. To be able to help one person means so much,” said Gorham.
CC’s Chocolate was also a drop-off location for donations.
“Any small thing that you can do to help somebody else, yes, it’s helping them but it makes you feel good. That’s my takeaway,” said Chris Culver.
A little act of kindness goes a long way.
“There’s so much in the world to see that oh this is going wrong and that is going wrong, but here we are we have this amazing community and town that has embraced a girl who needs help,” said Smith.
Through this help, Emma will be able to blossom into the person she wants to be.
“I think it’ll be kind of fun to be able to go and do stuff without having a lot of anxiety like having less anxiety,” said Emma.
Kindness: some may say this could be the greatest gift you can give a person.
The kindness is extending outside of the Wolcott community as well. Bakery on Maple in Bristol is making special cupcakes that Emma designed this week. All proceeds from those cupcakes will go to the organization, Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities to support others who need a service dog.
DeAndria Turner is a multi-media journalist at FOX61 News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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