Great Fundraiser Story: Diabetic Alert Dogs

The Emery Siblings - Great fundraiser for diabetic alert dogsFortunately, part of working in the fundraising business means that we meet and work with people who are striving to reach their goals. We are lucky in that part of job is working to support some pretty inspiring causes. The stories behind the fundraisers and the subsequent fundraising success stories motivate us to work harder each season to provide fresh and fun designs that will increase profits for every fundraiser we work with. This fundraiser to support a loving family in Texas is one of those stories that makes us pause, reflect and also inspires  the team behind the fundraiser to get the story out to help raise money for the cause.

Amelia Emery is a busy wife and mother of three living in Abilene, Texas. In addition to the typical chaos found in a bustling household of 5, she and her husband are also juggling the challenges and fear that comes to parents of two children diagnosed with Type One Diabetes. Type One Diabetes is an auto-immune disorder in which the white blood cells attack the islet cells in the pancreas which produce insulin. A T1 diabetic must inject insulin daily in order to stay alive. They also face many ongoing dangers including cumulative damage to the eyes, kidneys, hands and feet, among other issues. Untreated highs can result in “Diabetic Ketoacidocis” (DKA). Patients with DKA must be hospitalized to receive IV insulin and other medications. Untreated DKA causes death in a couple of days. Low blood sugars are equally dangerous, but must be treated more quickly and aggressively. A low blood sugar initially can cause dizziness, disorientation, and fainting. If untreated, lows can cause seizures and death.

The Emery children use an insulin pump which provides a little bit of insulin all day long and then it also gives a little extra insulin into their system when they eat or when their blood sugar is high. As T1 diabetes requires constant vigilance, both children check their blood sugar with a finger prick 8-10 times daily. The children also use Continuous Glucose Monitors which monitor their blood glucose every 5 minutes. Often used to monitor levels while a patient sleeps, the monitor is equipped with an alarm that sounds when glucose levels are in a danger zone.

Amelia’s son Ethan was diagnosed at 18 months old with Type 1 diabetes. He will be 9 in July. He has “hypoglycemic unawareness,” which means that his low blood sugars don’t make him feel bad until they are very low, and sometimes he doesn’t feel them at all. His blood sugar should be between 80-150, however he often doesn’t know he is low until he is down to 35. Additionally, he doesn’t feel highs until he is very high or has been high for several hours. The Emerys’ oldest child Mary Hannah was diagnosed at age 8. She is now 11 and entering 6th grade. Right now, she is able to feel both highs and lows, and is very independent in taking responsibility for her medications and self care.

The Emerys had looked at getting a Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD) early on because Ethan is so unstable. However the price ($20,000) always seemed out of reach. Last September, a friend’s daughter died in her sleep from T1 diabetes. Her blood sugar went low during the night and she did not wake up. This tragedy had a profound impact on the family. Mary Hannah still has trouble sleeping because she is afraid that she won’t wake up. Although the glucose monitor alarm may sound, it is not always loud enough to wake up the family.

Due to Ethan’s instability and dangerous unawareness, the Emery’s have decided on getting a Diabetic Alert Dog from Warren Retrievers in Virginia.

Similar to seeing eye dogs for blind people, DADs are approved service animals and are permitted to go everywhere their handler goes. Diabetic alert service dogs are trained to recognize and alert on the scent of low and/or high blood sugar in diabetics.  Partnering with a Diabetic Alert Dog can have a significant impact on an individual’s life including the potential to save it. DADs can smell a change in blood sugar 20-40 minutes before it occurs, and can tell if the sugar is going high or low, preventing a potential crisis. Diabetics may sleep right through a monitor’s alarm, whereas a trained diabetic alert dog is persistent to the point where s/he will “go get” another member of the household if the diabetic does not respond.

As the family looks to the future, they hope to one day have two diabetic alert dogs to accompany both children as they continue to grow and eventually learn how to drive, go to college and live out their dreams. If you would like to help the Emerys reach their goals, there are several fundraising opportunities available, including with Mixed Bag Designs. They plan on doing a new fundraiser with Mixed Bag Designs in Fall 2012 – more details to follow. Learn more about their journey and how you can contribute by following their story on Facebook at Amelia also has a blog documenting their journey:

For more information on Warren Retrievers and diabetic alert dogs you can view their website at and
Great Fundraiser - Diabetic Alert Dogs

Sammy and Momma” by Andrew Morell Photography.

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