A DELIGHTED Uttoxeter mother has thanked everyone who got behind her family to help raise the cash needed to unite her autistic son with a specially trained dog.
Andrea Bennett and the family of four-year-old Luke Bennett, of Demontfort Way, has raised the 4,858 euros needed to bring pooch Tilly over from Ireland with the support of friends, family and the residents of Uttoxeter as well as Thomas Alleyne’s High School.
The family has been fund-raising for Tilly since the middle of last month, with cake sales among events organised, and has seen donations come in fast.
The 38-year-old mother has also thanked the Advertiser for bringing their efforts to the attention of residents.
She said: “We had a couple of donations from people who wished to remain anonymous which pushed the amount up to the target.
“We want to thank everyone from Uttoxeter and definitely all the pupils and staff at Thomas Alleyne’s.
“We also thank the Uttoxeter Advertiser, friends and family and everyone who doesn’t know us, but donated to Luke and Tilly.
“Thank you so very much, everyone.”
Mrs Bennett, along with her husband Paul, is now being trained to work with Tilly to allow her to help Luke as his constant companion.
The mother added: “Paul and I are being trained to handle and how to keep up training when we bring Tilly home.
“We are so thankful and excited for Tilly and Luke to start their journey together.
“This would not have been possible without the generosity and support of all the people who have donated.
“We thank you all so much from the bottom of our hearts.”
Little Luke, who has a twin brother Kirk, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) last February after the family noticed some unusual behaviour.
It is hoped Tilly will give Luke and his family more freedom by keeping the youngster calm in situations he can find stressful.
At night Mrs Bennett said her son often does not sleep well and can be found up and about so it is hoped Tilly will be trained to stop him getting out of room while the rest of his family is asleep.
Luke can also become very distressed in public places when he becomes overstimulated, especially in shopping centres, which causes him to throw a tantrum.
Tilly will be able to distract him by simply putting her head on his lap which aims to calm him down.
Luke is known to be a ‘bolter’ and can often wiggle his way free from his parents hands when they are out and about.
As he has no awareness of danger or strangers, Luke has been known to run out into busy roads so when the family is out he will be harnessed to Tilly.
If he tries to run off the faithful pooch will then act as an anchor so he will not be able to leave the side of his family.
Mrs Bennett said: “We have found these dogs have had a lot of success with children with autism as animals can have a calming effect on them.
“We have heard so many good reviews and we really hope Tilly will help to bring him on in the future.
“She will at least help protect him and give us a bit more piece of mind.”