A teen in Iowa with Cerebral Palsy will finally receive the service dog she’s been dreaming of for most of her life after her classmates took it upon themselves to raise the money her family needed.
Doctors Pella Community High School student Kaelie de Heer when she was 1 year old, after her mother noticed her foot was twitching uncontrollably and she was missing several mobility milestones, The Pella Chronicle reported.
While Kaelie can use her hands, she’s mostly confined to a wheel chair and does not have a lot of motor control, her mother, Tina Uitermarkt, told the Chronicle.
“Pretty much anything you can think of in your daily life we have an added step,” she said.
A service dog would help Kaelie with daily tasks like opening doors and picking things up.
“I think it will just give me more independence and confidence – not having to rely on my family for things,” Kaelie told KCCI.
The family already has two dogs, but a service dog would require much more money and a more precise handling.
Uitermarkt and her daughter were placed on a waitlist when they applied for a service dog several years ago. Last fall, they were notified that they would be able to get a service dog from the class of pups due to graduate in June.
Great news, except the service dog would cost $28,000 – half of which is eligible to be covered under a scholarship Kaelie received.
Upon hearing the cost of the dog, Uitermarkt began planning to squirrel away money here and there, starting with a bonus check at work and a tax return. The family even began planning fundraisers to help meet the goal.
Instead, Kaelie’s friends stepped in to help.
Pella Community High School Junior Hanna Blom said she pitched to the student council to raise money for Kaelie.
“And then from there, it just kind of took off,” Hanna said.
The students planned several events to benefit the fund for Kaelie’s service dog.
Senior Ethan Vance described Kaelie as “always smiling” and said she “tries her hardest to do anything and everything.”
“Everybody was in support of helping her out for something that she wanted and that will help her out so much,” sophomore Grayson Parisee told KCCI.
On March 6, the student council surprised Kaelie and her family with a check for $3,000.
“Honestly, I almost started crying, because I never thought they would raise that much,” Kaelie said.
Kaelie’s friends even impressed school staff, who commended them for their good deed.
“When I see them taking the initiative to help someone out, it’s really fulfilling as a teacher,” said student council faculty advisor Dak Rasmussen.
The students raised so much money that they surpassed the goal for the remaining funds needed for the service dog, negating the need for another planned dinner and auction fundraiser planned for Saturday.
Kaelie will receive the dog in June and will attend a camp to learn all the necessary commands.