Cove mother raising funds for son’s service dog
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Michelle Gilmore, a Copperas Cove mother, is holding a fundraiser tomorrow to help her 13-year-old son get back into school, with the assistance of a service dog for his autism and posttraumatic stress disorder. Gilmore is seeking vendors to come to Patriot Cache Storage tomorrow, with setup beginning at 7:30 a.m., and a parking lot sale to be held from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. She is asking a $20 donation for a 10 x 10 booth space. Patriot Cache is located at 1310 E. Business 190, behind Stripes. “There is a high need for service dogs, but many programs are full,” Gilmore said. Also, because Conner has high-functioning Asperger’s syndrome, this doesn’t qualify him for some service dog programs. Gilmore has lived in Cove with her children for a year and a half, and she currently homeschools him because his diagnosed PTSD related to school is so severe. She is one of a number of parents who have expressed concerns about the treatment of their special needs students in the Killeen Independent School District. Conner’s PTSD stems from his kindergarten days years ago. Gilmore said she has documents from Conner’s psychiatrist which traces the PTSD back to those days. As a younger child, he played T-ball and basketball like other children, and even received behavior awards at school. All that changed starting in kindergarten. “They would have to pull him off the car because he didn’t want to go into the school,” Gilmore said. His behavior issues escalated from there. At first the psychiatrist thought he was exhibiting bipolar disorder, but then Gilmore found out Conner was being restrained improperly at his school to the point it left bruises. That’s also when his behavior changed, she said, and he was even having wetting accidents at school. Although he is being homeschooled, Gilmore wants her son to be able to be with other children his age and experience everything they do. At this point, his PTSD in adultled student groups is so bad, he can’t even go to Scouts. Conner does have a Labrador-border collie mix named Dr. (Doctor), which the Gilmores adopted from the Killeen Animal Shelter. Gilmore’s immediate goal is to get Dr. certified as a service dog, and to do so, there are four dog training courses through PetSmart that the young dog can take. That initial cost will run about $2,000 for the training, she said. Gilmore’s ultimate goal is to raise $25,000 for a service dog through Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers, a nonprofit which requires families needing service dogs to help raise their own funding. The training program itself is a 16-week program wherein a dog trainer would work with Conner and a new service dog. SDWR helps provide service dogs for people with diabetes, autism, PTSD, and seizure disorders, but they also help people find ways to offset the costs of getting a service dog and have stringent compliance requirements. “We are not allowed to start a GoFundMe account, but have to do our own fundraisers,” Gilmore said. For more information or to reserve a booth space, contact Michelle Gilmore at (254) 289-0181.