Local effort seeks to secure service dog for autistic 10-year-old

Kira Deibele-Nations excels at computers and art in school, but is still waiting for a best friend. The 10-year-old has autism, limiting her ability to form functional relationships with children her age.

While she prefers to read nonfiction, her favorite novels include “Warriors,” a series about a clan of warrior cats.

“The person who made it is so… it makes me inspired,” she said.

Her mother, Kristen Deibele-Nations, said Kira likes to pretend a lot by playing warrior cats. The family has a pet cat, too, but right now they are working on adopting a dog that will cost them $13,500.

The Deibele-Nations family started “K9 for Kira” to try to raise money for a service dog for Kira through Autism Service Dogs of America. When local businesses and nonprofits heard about the need, they stepped in to help by sponsoring a bowling extravaganza  fundraising April 21.

After she was born, parents Brian and Kristen noticed early on that something was wrong, Kristen said. Kira would often vomit and be generally grouchy.

“When she was 2, she would sit and stack blocks for hours, like over and over again,” Kristen said.

Today Kira plays Minecraft, a game that allows players to build and survive, she said.

“I like being creative so I can just build,” Kira said.

Though fairly high-functioning and capable of doing schoolwork, Kira has more trouble dealing with emotional and social issues, Kristen said.

“She’s a pressure seeker, so she’ll shove herself up under something to get the pressure,” she added.

That’s where a service dog comes in. Autism service dogs are trained to apply pressure for comfort, and can detect when anxiety is rising.

When a child has a problem, parents try to help them any way they can, Kristen said. The Deibele-Nations have tried every therapy, evaluation, assistance and tool they could think of. Then they started researching service dogs.

They learned service dogs have been very helpful for autistic children, especially those with similar troubles as Kira, Kristen said. She has a lot of anxiety issues, especially in social situations, and the dog would be able to calm and distract her.

“She tends to latch on to one adult, and it helps her move around the environment,” Kristen said. “If she doesn’t have someone to be with, she doesn’t function. That’s why I thought a dog would be perfect.”

The Deibele-Nations family first started saving money by having yard sales and selling homemade candies, Kristen said. It was slow-going.

“We expected we’d have to be raising money for years. I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere,” Kristen said.

But when Lauralee Beck saw what the family was doing, she stepped in to help. Beck is the founder of Points for Profit, an organization created to support local businesses and nonprofits. K9 for Kira fit in with her passion to help, so it made sense for Beck to take this project under her wing.

“When I heard, I said it was going to take forever to make caramels and make enough (money),” Beck said.

K9 for Kira attended Points for Profit meetings to sell goodies and raise money through the organization. Meanwhile, Beck organized the bowling fundraiser with the help of Linn Lanes, BiMart, Bigfoot Bites, and other local businesses and nonprofits.

The family has expressed humble appreciation because of the support they’ve received, and when Kira saw all the help offered for her, she exclaimed, “People really like me!” Kristen said.

So far the family has raised about 25 percent of the need, but Beck expects the need to be fulfilled nearly 100 percent after the bowling event.

ASDA, located in Tualatin, spends about $20,000 to obtain and train their dogs, and they ask for a $13,500 donation to help cover the cost.

Adopting a dog through ASDA involves an application process, including the submission of a video that will help the organization determine which dog would be a good match.

“They’re pretty good at figuring out which is a good match, like what kind of behaviors (she exhibits) and also what they need to train for,” Kristen said.

According to ASDA, it usually takes 12 to 18 months to place a dog, depending on dog availability, application process time, funds raised, and best match made.

Kristen is looking into a couple other options that might be shorter wait times, but the funding is different and might not be feasible, she said.

Bowling fund-raiser planned for Kira

A Bowling Extravaganza fund-raiser to help Kira Deibele-Nations acquire a service dog will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 21 at Linn Lanes, 2250 S. Main Road.

Cost is $20 each (kids 5 and under are free), and includes bowling, shoe rental, food, karaoke, and two raffle tickets. Extra raffle tickets can be purchased for $1 each, or an arms-length for $20. Raffle prizes include a vacation at Eagle Crest, and various other prizes.

For more information or to donate a raffle prize, call (541) 791-2901 or (541) 905-4984, or email info@points forprofit.org.

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