Nolan, a child residing in Polk County, Iowa, was on hand to thank donors.
He looks forward to receiving his own autism-assistance dog in July 2014.
The Iowa State Fraternal Order of Eagles (F.O.E.) recently donated more than $138,000 to Paws & Effect, so that the Central Iowa non-profit trainer of service animals could maintain and expand its production of dogs specially trained for children with autism.
The donation was the result of fund-raising efforts from 39 FOE chapters, called "aeries," across the state. And donations continue to arrive. "The funds raised will be vitally important in growing and maintaining our efforts to serve children with autism," says Nicole Shumate, executive director of Paws & Effect.
Service animals are trained to perform physical tasks in support of a specific individual. By law, service animals are granted access to public spaces along with their handlers.
The cost of a finished service animal can range from $15,000 to $25,000 each, given training, food, veterinary care, uniforms, equipment, and other costs borne by the Paws & Effect organization. Paws & Effect trains service and mobility animals for military veterans, children, and others. Animals are placed at no cost to recipients, and those recipients train directly with their animals prior to the dogs' "graduation."
Paws & Effect has previously placed three dogs with children with autism, and two more dogs are nearly ready to graduate. A new class of puppies will arrive in the fall.
Serving children with autism is an outgrowth of Paws & Effects' long-standing commitment to children with special healthcare needs. Through its "Abilities Through Agility" program, Paws & Effect has been working since 2007 with another Central Iowa non-profit, ChildServe, to pair children and therapy animals in pursuing physical-, occupational-, and speech-therapy objectives. Unlike service animals, therapy animals are trained and socialized to serve general populations.
"For such a small and scrappy organization like ours, those years of experience put us on the cutting edge of developing service animals for children with specialized healthcare needs," says Shumate. "Nationwide, we seem to be one of the leading organizations working in this way."
The Fraternal Order of Eagles' mission is "an international non-profit organization, [that] unites fraternally in the spirit of liberty, truth, justice, and equality, to make human life more desirable by lessening its ills, and by promoting peace, prosperity, gladness and hope."
According to the organization, national membership exceeds 850,000, with more than 1,400 local aeries in the United States and Canada. Women's auxiliaries total more than 1,300, with more than 250,000 members.