JENNA HAUCK/ THE PROGRESS Chilliwack residents, Tina McGee and daughter Kherrigan, are getting ready for a dance fundraiser in Fort Langley on June 29 to help them raise funds for an autism service dog for Kherrigan.

Dancing for Kherrigan

Dance studios from Langley, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission and Vancouver uniting in common cause

Competing dance schools are not used to collaborating with one another, but the cause at hand trumps bragging rights — the purchase of an autism service dog.

Five Lower Mainland dance schools, as well as several independent dancers, are coming together to team up for Cause 4 Paws in support of Kherrigan’s service dog fundraiser.

The show is set for June 29 at Fort Langley’s Chief Sepass Theatre (9096 Trattle St.) and will be an evening of dance, music and friendship.

Studio One Dance Centre (Langley), Project Dance (Chilliwack), Dance in Motion (Abbotsford), True Art Dance Academy (Mission) and Goh Ballet (Vancouver) have all fallen into step for a single cause.

“Dance studios don’t typically come together, so this is pretty special,” said Tina McGee. “They are all coming together for the one cause, so I think that is pretty cool.”

The cause is McGee’s daughter, Kherrigan, and the quest to get the young Chilliwack girl an autism service dog.

McGee is a long-time dance instructor who has taught at schools across the Lower Mainland.

Kherrigan, who turns eight next month, is the middle of McGee’s three children, with older sister Abrielle, 10, and younger brother Emile, 1.

During her first few years of life, Kherrigan wasn’t reaching any of her milestones and countless appointments with specialists did not produce any answers.

McGee called that period “difficult and deflating.”

Kherrigan has since been diagnosed with autism, as well as having severe cognitive impairment, global development delay, hypoglycemia and seizures. She also lacks the ability to see in 3D.

A year ago, McGee began researching service dogs and whether it would be a benefit to her daughter.

McGee said with no new applicants being accepted for service dogs because of high demand — and Kherrigan likely to exceed the 10-year-old age limit by the time it reopened — she decided to proceed privately.

The process costs $45,000 and so far, close to $11,000 has been raised, the bulk of which came through a crowdfunding campaign.

That amount also includes $850 which was raised by Kherrigan’s Grade 2 classmates at Chilliwack’s Promontory Heights Elementary, and another $1,021 raised by a pair of Grade 5 students at Abbotsford’s South Poplar Traditional School — where her daughters attended prior to the family moving to Chilliwack.

The paperwork has already been completed and once they reach $22,500, they can deliver the down payment to begin the process of breeding and training the dog, which will take another year and a half.

The dog will help both Kherrigan and the family.

“Kherrigan wanders — she doesn’t know danger — and she bolts out the door,” McGee explained.

Last summer, Kherrigan managed to slip outside on her own, but thankfully her family located her almost immediately.

The service dog would be tethered to Kherrigan and would be trained to recognize warning signs for seizures and low blood sugar levels through scent.

“She is non-verbal so the dog would be her voice, telling us something is not right,” McGee explained.

The dog would also help the family experience some normalcy in their lives, instead of one parent having to remain behind.

“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 too overwhelmed by the surroundings or annoyed by being redirected, that we end up either not going places, or having to leave,” McGee said.

Tickets for the show are $20 and can be ordered online at brownpapertickets.com or can be picked up at Wendel’s Books &Cafe in Fort Langley (9233 Glover Rd).

The show begins at 7 p.m.

 

A fundraiser is set to help raise money to purchase a service dog for Chilliwack’s Kherrigan Cattermole. The event will be held June 29 at Fort Langley’s Chief Sepass Theatre. Submitted photo