When Chick-fil-A owner John Roden of Bossier City, Louisiana, heard Maggie Lee’s story at his church in early October, 2010, he wanted his restaurant take part in Maggie Lee for Good Day. He shared the story with his marketer, Renee Wilson, who contacted us and asked if we were open to his Chick-Fil-A Restaurant (and, eventually the other two in the Shreveport / Bossier Area) to join in the second annual event. Of course we were ecstatic to have Chick-fil-A on board.
A week later Julie Babboni approached Renee Wilson in hopes of doing a fundraiser to help cover the astronomical cost of a trained service dog for her son, Benjamin. 4 Paws for Ability is a non-profit organization whose dogs perform life-changing and even life-saving service for disabled children and adults. The timing seemed to be divinely inspired. Typically shying away from individual fundraisers, Renee still somehow felt like assisting in Benjamin’s quest for a service dog was the perfect project for this day. On October 29th, 2010, we met The Babboni family and was taken with this little guy whose life would be changed forever by a sweet, enormous canine named Hachi.
As seen in the video, Renee is explaining that at lunch on Maggie Lee for Good Day, every 29th meal was free, given in honor of Maggie Lee’s birthday and every customer who was given a free meal donated to the fundraiser for Benjamin. Donations included an anonymous gift in the whopping amount of $5,000, practically 1/3 of the cost of a trained service dog.
For three Octobers, Maggie Lee for Good has been a great rallying point around which generous enthusiasm is drawn. Whether it be a fun run benefitting North Carolina Organ Donation, a food drive in San Angelo, TX or even a service-dog fundraiser in Bossier City, LA., it is a tremendous phenomenon to watch. We are thrilled by the divine orchestration which led our lives to cross with so many of you and we are also happy that Benjamin has a faithful companion and protector in Hachi. Here are a few remarkable stories from Julie:
“We met Hachi for the first time on Aug 2, 2011. We had just been emailed a photo of him a week prior! When Hachi and Benjamin met it was an immediate bond and Hachi also began alerting to the Electrical status (seizure discharges) that Benjamin constantly has going on in his brain. It was amazing. Since then the two have slept together every night, and lately Benjamin has taken to Hachi’s bed so they both sleep on a huge dog bed! But at least he’s sleeping.
A month after having Hachi we no longer took Benjamin’s wheelchair to school. Hachi is trained in tethering/mobility, which means he wears a sturdy leather harness that has a handle for Benjamin to hold on to, and then we use a padded dog collar around Benjamin’s waist and tie them to each other with a bungee type leash. Hachi walks slowly next to Benjamin and bears his weight when needed (ie stairs) but mostly helps Benjamin keep his balance and use his leg muscles by walking. It is also a godsend because now out in public we do not have to confine Benjamin to his wheelchair for safety because he would always take off. Hachi is trained to stay down or standing no matter how much hard Benjamin is pulling on the leash trying to get away.
He is also trained in tracking! Hachi is amazing at finding Benjamin, it is his favorite game. We’ve practiced in parks, woods, around the house, stores, in the house, and even the underground tunnels up at the mayo clinic! We spent 2 straight weeks training with Hachi and his trainers, and he it was one of the best trackers of his class! So if Benjamin ever does get away from us at home or in public then Hachi will be able to “hunt” him down!!!
As I mentioned before Hachi also does seizure alert. Benjamin’s has had 3 physical seizures since we got Hachi, and Hachi alerted about 6-8 minutes before each seizure. Since Benjamin usually doesn’t have physical seizures we were very surprised. Hachi is used to Benjamin’s constant electrical activity in his brain, ( he has ESES epilepsy as one of his diagnosis’) but Hachi will alert a few times a day, and that is when Benjamin is having a full seizure in his brain and we are only aware of it because of Hachi, Benjamin may be sleeping or playing at the time and shows no physical signs of it.
His last two things he is trained in are Behavior Disruption, and Emotional Support. We have Hachi “give kisses” or lay on Benjamin’s lap as distractions when he is starting a tantrum and it works about 85% of the time and then Hachi is just Benjamin’s best friend.
Having Hachi is like having another child to get ready and feed and tend to, so it is not always so easy for me, but seeing what he does for my son everyday makes every second worth it.
We did go to Disney and Sea World this past November, and the first day at the park Benjamin walked tethered to Hachi for 3 straight hours, he’s never walked for more than 20 minutes straight before. Having Hachi is building muscle, increasing his independence while keeping him safe, and giving him a sense of belonging.”
So if you ever wondered about Benjamin and if he ever got his service dog, there’s the rest of the story.