Little girl needs a service dog, Valley dancers step up

A Cause 4 Paws fundraiser in Langley will help get seven-year-old Kherrigan a needed companion.

Fraser Valley dancers are joining forces to raise funds to acquire a service dog for a child.

Dancers from several Fraser Valley dance studios are joining together to help raise funds for the daughter of a long-time Fraser Valley ballet teacher who is in need of a service dog to help her lead a better life.

Cause 4 Paws will feature group and solo dancers from studios in Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Langley as well as an appearance by dancers from GOH Ballet and a musical performance from up-and-coming Langley singer, Peaks.

The goal of the evening of dance, music, and friendship to be held on Thursday, June 29 at the Chief Sepass Theatre at the Langley Fine Arts School in Fort Langley is to help raise money for Kherrigan McGee’s fundraising efforts to go towards acquiring a service dog.

“After years of testing, there is still no genetic answer for what Kherrigan has,” said her mother Tina McGee. “When Kherrigan was born she was seemingly healthy, but it didn’t take long before we started realizing something wasn’t right. She was not hitting any of the milestones that her older sister had met, and with each passing month, instead of writing in her baby book about what she had achieved, we were in and out of specialist appointments where they would write what she was not achieving.”

Kherrigan will be eight this July.

Having a recent diagnosis of autism (she had been tested at five years old, but couldn’t functionally manage the tests), “Kherrigan also has severe cognitive impairment, global development delay, hypoglycemia, petit mal seizures much of the day and night – which affects her ability to sleep – and she also only visualizes in two dimension sight – which means she cannot see depth,” her mother explained.

“It can be a little overwhelming, and perhaps depressing to read that, but there are so many positives that greatly outweigh any of it. Kherrigan, despite all of the issues, is the happiest, most affectionate little girl, and everywhere she goes people are touched by her smile and infectious laughter,” McGee said.

Service dogs are provided for free, however, the demand is such that the waitlists are currently closed and it is uncertain when they will open again.

“Once your child is accepted onto the wait list, it is then several years before they are placed with a service dog. This all needs to be complete before the child is 10,” McGee said.

“Kherrigan is nearly eight, so we have no choice but to pay for the service dog, which costs anywhere between $17,000 U.S. and can easily exceed $40,000.”

The service dog will go through extensive training to be aware of Kherrigan’s unique needs, Mom said.

The service dog will be trained to help keep Kherrigan calm, especially at bedtime, and will also be able to sense low blood sugar and seizures and to notify the parent or guardian. The dog would also be trained to be tethered to Kherrigan and that will keep her safe from running off into traffic or other danger.

McGee and her family are seeing the addition of a service dog as a life-altering event not only for Kherrigan, but for the whole family.

“I think the thing I am most excited for is that our family could go on outings like a typical family. Going to the park, or beach is nearly impossible. If we do go, our eyes are constantly on Kherrigan, keeping her safe, and often she will become so overwhelmed by the surrounding that we end up either not going places, or having to leave,” Mom said.

“As Kherrigan’s mother, I will tell you, I am confident Kherrigan will receive her dog. It is what she needs to thrive, and this little lady deserves every opportunity we can provide for her to do so.”

Tickets are available for the Cause 4 Paws event online at cause4paws.brownpapertickets.com and in Fort Langley at Wendel’s Books & Cafe on Glover Road.

The show will take place on Thursday, June 29 at the Chief Sepass Theatre at the Langley Fine Arts School in Fort Langley. Show time is 7 p.m.