The Mickey’s Kids family continues to grow.
This weekend the Hasbrouck Heights-based charitable foundation whose mission is to bring service dogs into the lives of youngsters in need took one more family under its wing by officially marking its sponsorship for young Jakob Gibbemeyer, of Westfield, who has cerebral palsy.
Mickey’s Kids founders Tom and Michele Meli invited the whole community to join in the celebration Saturday afternoon at the parking lot of Shadow Food Mart, on the first annual Service Dog Awareness day.
The Melis made a formal presentation to Jakob and his parents Lara and Alan as many other members of the Mickey’s Kids family stood by in support, which of course includes some of the service dogs themselves.
Liberty, who earlier this year became the official spokesdog for Canine Assistants, which is the organization that breeds and trains these service dogs, was on hand to greet the children.
Meli explained it costs about $25,000 to raise and train these service dogs and thanked all the supporters of Mickey’s Kids for making the sponsorship for Jakob possible. Mickey’s Kids works to exclusively support Canine Assistants with the goal to sponsor one to two dogs for a child per year.
Alan Gibbemeyer says Jakob currently uses a large walker on the wheels to assist him with balance which they hope will no longer be needed once he has the dog. “It’d be really nice to see him without the walker,” his father says.
The family had been on a waiting list for a Canine Assistants dog for some time. Alan says they weren’t sure it would actually be possible and then one day the phone call came they had been sponsored, he says.
Jakob and his parents will now go to Georgia in January where Canine Assistants is based to meet his dog. One of the special things about Canine Assistants is the dogs pick the child, the child doesn’t pick the dog.
The bond starts there and from then on the dog becomes more than a companion for the child as it can do a number of things to assist including opening doors, picking things up and calling 9-1-1 if an emergency were to arise.
In honor of Jakob’s love “for anything on wheels” as his mother Lara says, the Melis got the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department to bring a truck and ambulance on the site for the Jakob and his siblings to tour and explore. Neighborhood youngsters joined in as well as the volunteer fire fighters and EMS showed the kids around.
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