Caring community

Mother finds support in efforts to get service dog for son

Gabriel plays with a Wilderwood foster dog, Marcus, a golden-doodle puppy. The Wilderwood volunteers and foster dogs were on-hand to support the Wrights and educated supporters about the service. Dogs like Marcus are trained to meet specific needs.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Gabriel plays with a Wilderwood foster dog, Marcus, a golden-doodle puppy. The Wilderwood volunteers and foster dogs were on-hand to support the Wrights and educated supporters about the service. Dogs like Marcus are trained to meet specific needs.

Heather Wright has been on a mission to provide a costly service dog for her 4-year-old autistic son, Gabriel; but she has not been alone.

“Honestly, I don’t think I would have the strength or courage to keep going with this if it weren’t for the support,” she said.

That support includes family, friends, her church and even complete strangers in the community who are helping with the on-going effort to raise the $10,000 needed for the trained service dog.

According to Wright, her network of supporters helped her raise more than $3,000 at a white elephant sale on July 17 at her church, St. Paul Lutheran Church.

Along with the church sale, Wright and her supporters are having a fundraising carnival on Saturday, Aug. 28. The location has not been finalized but Wright hopes the event can be held at Starbucks, 1011 W. Lamar Alexander Drive, Maryville because the business has offered to match all funds raised at the event.

Wright said she is checking into needed permits to hold the event there, otherwise it will be at a local park. Supporters can check for updates at www.giftforgabriel.com.

A fund for Gabriel has been established at Regions Bank and supporters can also make donations on the website through Pay Pal.

Wright said the service requires two payments of $5,000; her first installment is due in October. “We’re almost there,” she said.

She said the fundraising events are hard work but also encouraging.

“The sale was a phenomenal experience.”

So many people donated items for the sale; their storage unit was completely full. “We even had someone who saw the article and called us because she was moving and had several things to donate.”

She said people came by the church and left donations as well.

Complete strangers not only donated items but they also showed up in droves to shop at the sale.

Volunteers ranging from friends to church members did everything from help load items to set up the sale to running the registers. The sale also included hot dog lunches, donated by the Men in Mission group at her church, and countless donated bake sale items.

“I got there and the counters were full of baked stuff with a sign that read, For Gabriel.”

Wright and her supporters hope there will be a service dog for Gabriel by spring of next year. The dog will help keep him safe and provide comfort.

In the meantime, the Wrights are comforted by the generosity of their friends and community.

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