Sometimes we all need a helping hand or a shoulder to hold us up.
For Carsten Ussery, who suffers from a chromosome abnormality, that support could come by way of a stability dog.
A stability dog is a balance dog specifically trained to assist individuals who have a disability that interferes with their ability to walk. With the support of a stability dog, a person can more freely interact with their environment and other people.
That’s why Team Give Back is hosting a virtual one-mile run, 5K or 25 to 50 mile bike ride from May 15 to May 17.
“Carsten [Ussery] was born with a chromosome abnormality,” said Team Give Back member Mallory Wilkins. “This has caused countless challenges for Carsten—multiple surgeries, hospital stays, developmental delays, fall risk, hearing loss and sensory processing disorder. The stability dog will help him on multiple levels. First it will help with everyday movement that we take for granted in crowds or transitioning from difficult surfaces.”
And of course, the dog will do what comes naturally to most canine companions: Be a buddy.
“Since he does have a sensory processing disorder, the dog will be able to calm him when he is overwhelmed by licking his hand or laying on him,” Wilkins said. “Since Carsten has hearing loss, the dog will also be able to alert him to sounds he may not hear like his mom calling or a siren.”
Team Give Back, started by Mitzi Deaton and based in Dahlonega, is a 501c3 non-profit charity serving individuals and families within Northeast Georgia communities. The organization has sponsored families in need with events such as the New River Trail Triathlon in Virginia, the 3-Gap in Dahlonega and the Coast-to-Coast Florida Ride.
“[Mitzi] has been active with Make-A-Wish for many years and has also enjoyed bike riding and taking part in 5K and 10K races,” said Wilkins. “She saw a need for families in the Northeast Georgia area and started Team Give Back as a way to turn a passion for athletics into fundraising power. The mission is to serve and inspire individuals in the community.”
Even with the coronavirus pandemic, Team Give Back’s mission has not changed. Although this year’s format has been altered in order to still raise the money Ussery needs to get his stability dog.
“This is the fourth year for the annual event and the past years have been held at Hancock Park in Dahlonega, but due to social distancing and shelter in place [restrictions], the event has become virtual,” Wilkins said.
The virtual format is an innovation that Wilkins and Team Give Back hope will allow community members to still engage in the fundraiser and make a difference in Ussery’s life.
“Since we can not have the annual event at Hancock Park, we have decided to do a virtual event,” Wilkins said. “This means that you can do it anywhere - your neighborhood, park, favorite hidden trail or even your treadmill - any time over the weekend and share your running/riding and showing support for Carsten. We are asking that people tag @Teamgivebackga on Facebook or Instagram and to use #teamgivebackga and #4pawsforcarsten so that we can follow along and share to our social media.”
With the cost of Ussery’s stability dog being $17,000, Team Give Back is hoping for a large response from people looking to offer a helping hand to Ussery and his family.
“Team Give Back is grateful for the support from the community, friends and family,” Wilkins said. “Carsten has chosen to get his dog from 4 Paws for Ability in Xenia, Ohio, it’s a training facility for services dogs. The cost of the dog is $17,000, and so far Team Give Back has raised $6,500. We were hoping to get the family to the half way mark of $8,500. We only have $2,000 to go.”
Wilkins said the response, so far, has been strong.
“We have 33 people signed up so far and look forward to seeing how many people join and where they take us on their runs/rides,” she said.
To donate or to take part in the virtual event, you can visit Team Give Back’s Facebook page at facebook.com/teamgivebackga/. Because of the organization’s 501c3 status, any donations made are tax deductible at the end of the year.