It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, the call during work, “Your son had an accident.”
For Melissa and Alex Kimmel, the call came in February about their son Jonah.
Jonah was diagnosed at two years, two months with autism. Now seven, he is enrolled in the Bridge Program at Village Glen School in Culver City. It was during school when Jonah climbed a fence to escape the yard, and was hit by a car when he ran into traffic.
“We don’t know what triggered the episode, it could have been a bus driving past,” Melissa Kimmel says. “He doesn’t have a sense of danger, and it’s scary.”
Although Jonah was not seriously injured, the event did highlight the risks that not even the most-prepared person can avoid. Jonah has a tendency to run off, his mom says.
“Whenever they’re (the class) going anywhere, he likes to run over to the library and he knows where the Harry Potter books are,” Melissa Kimmel says. “He’s not trying to be naughty, he just knows where the things he wants are.”
At an autism walk in April, the Kimmels received information on the Dogwish Foundation, which pairs service dogs with disabled children.
“We had heard that a canine is good for working with (kids) but it was too expensive, so we put that thought on the back burner,” she says. “But Dogwish gave us information that said a service dog would cost $20,000, and Dogwish would pay half, to bring it down to $10,000.”
Even at half-price, though, a service dog is a high cost, and most families who receive the dogs have to raise money, she says. But the benefits are enormous.
“Jonah is very capable of doing things, but if someone’s there with him he won’t perform to his full potential because he’ll just wait for someone to do it for him,” Melissa Kimmel says. “With Charlie (the service dog), Jonah will have to learn to do things for himself, he can learn social skills and how to interact with others.”
Charlie, a black Labrador/border collie mix, is a year-and-a-half old and is currently being trained specifically to work with Jonah. His specialties will include search-and-rescue, as well as being able to sleep with Jonah, who has sleeping issues. Training, Melissa Kimmel says, is more intensive than for a typical service dog because each autistic child is unique, requiring different needs.
“Jonah loves Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and he’s been obsessed with finding golden tickets, and we thought it would be great to have a fundraiser not just to get Charlie, but for the Dogwish Foundation also.”
The Dogwish Foundation, Melissa Kimmel says, gives families a year to pay for the dogs they place, “but if a family can’t pay, they won’t take the dog away, so they’re struggling to stay afloat.”
Jonah’s Golden Wish will benefit not only the Kimmel family addition, but proceeds will go to Dogwish Foundation as well.
Set to begin at 4:30 p.m. Satuday, August 23rd, performers will include Asdru Sierra of Ozomatli, Get Set Go, Hindge Creek and the group twodoggarage, among others, at Air Conditioned Supper Club, 625 Lincoln Blvd., Venice.
Admission is a suggested $10 at the door, with additional raffles for such products as Lakers tickets, Halo, Half-Life and Half-Life 2, among others.
“I’m really hopeful,” Melissa Kimmel says. “It’s hard when you have a child with any limitation and I’m thankful that we do have so much potential with Jonah.”