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Friday, 29 August 2014 10:26

More Than Just A Furry Friend

By | News

Boy with Two Rare Conditions Fundraising for Service Dog

SARATOGA SPRINGS – 2-year-old Giovanni LaBate of Saratoga Springs has faced many obstacles in his short life. While most toddlers spend the majority of their day playing with toys and coloring, Giovanni’s life has been largely occupied by hospitalizations, doctor’s visits, medical testing and daily therapy sessions.

Giovanni was diagnosed with two rare neurological conditions – periventricular heterotopia and porencephaly. Periventricular heterotopia is a condition in which the grey matter in the brain does not migrate properly during early fetal development, forming clumps around the ventricles. Most children diagnosed with this condition develop epilepsy. Giovanni began having seizures shortly after his first birthday.

Shortly before birth, as a result of periventricular heterotopia, Giovanni suffered a stroke which caused a permanent cerebral spinal fluid-filled cyst to form in his brain. The stroke itself left Giovanni with diminished use of his left arm and leg. Although therapy has helped immensely, he continues to struggle with balance, strength and coordination.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges Giovanni faces is his inability to cope with his environment. Due to the abnormalities in his brain, Giovanni over-responds to sensation and finds certain sensory input to be unbearable.

“Textures, sounds, certain lights…they’re obnoxious to him and he goes into a meltdown and he’s very hard to redirect,” said Krystyn LaBate, Giovanni’s mother. “It’s not your typical toddler tantrum, he loses touch with reality. He doesn’t even know it’s us trying to console him.”  

The LaBate family recently began fundraising for a multipurpose service dog for Giovanni through “4 Paws for Ability,” an Ohio-based non-profit organization. 4 Paws is the leading provider of specialty-trained dogs for children.

The service dog will be able to alert Giovanni’s family of seizures, give him the ability to play more independently and partake in more activities. The dog will be able to provide mobility assistance and assist with behavior disruption. When Giovanni is presented with sensory input that he cannot handle, his parents will be able to give commands to the dog such as touch, kiss or deep pressure, which will help Giovanni and prevent sensory overload, allowing him to better cope with his environment. The dog will also provide Giovanni additional comfort while in an over stimulating environment.

“I was absolutely blown away by what these service dogs can do,” said Krystyn. “One thing we feel really good about is his connection with animals. We have two small dogs and he loves them.”

It will cost 4 Paws for Ability $22,000 to raise and train a service dog to support Giovanni. To enable them to help as many children as quickly as possible, 4 Paws asks each recipient family to fundraise to assist in placing the dog. By using this unique fundraising model, each family is able to receive a service dog within one year. The LaBate family has committed to raising $14,000.

“As soon as we fundraise the amount we’ve committed to, they will select Giovanni’s dog and begin the training process,” said Krystyn. “It takes 12-15 months to train the dog for Giovanni’s specific needs and once the dog is trained, we go to Ohio for two weeks and go through a certification class as a family.”

To learn more about Giovanni and how to make a tax-deductible donation, visit www.facebook.com/giovannisjourney or his website -- www.giovannisjourney.com. You may also make a donation in his name by sending a check with “Giovanni LaBate” written on the memo line to:

4 Paws for Ability

253 Dayton Ave

Xenia, Ohio 45385

For more information on 4 Paws for Ability, visit www.4pawsforability.org.

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