PITSBURG – Hope Middlestetter, an eight-year-old girl with Down’s Syndrome from Pitsburg, and her family began raising money last summer after coming to the decision to pursue a service dog to help with Hope’s care. Through the “ample generosity” of Darke County and numerous friends and family, the Middlestetters were able to achieve their goal of $13,000.
“We are very grateful for the donations, and humbled to know we cannot repay those who have donated; we can only pay it forward,” Mary Middlestetter, Hope’s mother, stated. “Some of the moments that stuck out for me included the time a lady struck a van in front of our house. It caused no damage to the van, but broke her side mirror. Upon knocking on the door and meeting us, she remembered she wanted to donate to Hope and did so.”
Other moments included having strangers approach them and offer gifts for Hope and her older sister Evie, the spaghetti dinner that Trinity Lutheran Church in Pitsburg held, and unexpected donations from the children of Gordon United Methodist and Ludlow Falls Grace Baptist Church. Along with that, Hope received a donation through the HOPE Foundation, from a fund established by Linda Newbauer in memory of her late husband, Mike, who wanted to assist a Darke County resident in need of a service or companion dog.
Mary reported that their goal was exceeded by mid-October, but the family won’t get Hope’s service dog until August, she said, after two weeks in Xenia training the family and the dog to function together at 4 Paws for Ability’s facility.
There’s a lot of work that goes into training a service dog for special needs children, Mary explained, and the training really never ends, because the dog will continue to adapt to Hope’s needs. To acclimate the dogs to the children, 4 Paws requires that families spend the first two weeks within a 15-minute drive of the 4 Paws facility in Xenia, Mary said, which will be an additional expense to the funds already raised for 4 Paws for the service dog, to cover the cost of a hotel, food, a house sitter, and more.
Both parents are required to stay with Hope and her service dog during the two weeks of training, Mary said, one parent assigned to the child, and the other to the dog. To help with the expense of a two-week stay out of town, a benefit fund has been established at Second National Bank for Hope Middlestetter.
To continue to stay up-to-date with Hope’s progress, like “Chasing Hope” on Facebook.