The story of a boy and his family’s efforts to get him a service dog has touched many in the community who have helped raise the money to buy the animal.
Ollie Dasher, a 5-year-old autistic boy, is on his way to being matched with a service dog thanks to donations and fundraisers put on with the help of his mother, Casey, local organizations and restaurants.
“The value to life that having a service dog will add for Ollie is immeasurable, so that is why we have put these fundraisers together with the help of community members,” Casey said.
The fundraising efforts have been split into three parts: a GoFundMe Page which has exceeded its $17,500 goal; a fundraiser by Semper Fi Bar & Grille in Woodstock; and a shoe drive to benefit Ollie’s cause.
“Our fundraiser on Sept. 8 with Semper Fi was a program called Group Raise, which is a fundraising program that restaurants can take part in to benefit a certain cause,” Casey said. “Ollie’s therapist was actually the one who let us know about this when we were trying to think of fundraising ideas for a service dog.”
Casey said she saw that Semper Fi was on the list of restaurants that take part in the program, and that she knew instantly that it was the restaurant for them. The fundraiser at Semper Fi collected $500 toward Ollie’s goal.
Semper Fi Bar & Grille co-owner Ralph Roeger said that, upon hearing Ollie’s story, he and his wife wanted to be a part of it. Semper Fi Bar & Grille hosted Ollie and his family again on Oct. 14.
The Dasher family has also been taking part in a shoe drive with Shoes With Heart, where, through this drive, Ollie will receive a donation based on the weight of the shoes collected. The shoes are then distributed around the world to help people in developing communities and those in need.
“I spoke with Shoes With Heart about a fundraising opportunity for Ollie and we got that started,” Dasher said. “I started to reach out on social media to see if I could get my community involved, but the feedback wasn’t there initially. However, the day we announced the shoe drive and Semper Fi fundraiser, within one day, I had been contacted by over 150 people who wanted to help.”
Dasher added that the support for the shoe drive has not stopped since it started a few weeks ago, with businesses now contacting her to discuss ways they can be involved. She said that she also receives daily visits from neighbors.
“We set our goal at 100 bags, each filled with 25 pairs of shoes, with Ollie being paid 40 cents per pound,” Casey Dasher said. “Basically, 100 bags would equal $1,000 towards Ollie fundraiser. So far we have collected over 300 bags. The Community, businesses, and organizations have donated, and we also have a family member in Augusta that has collected over 300 pairs of shoes in her community. It is pretty remarkable because our shoe drive goes until Nov. 20.”
Casey said that Ollie’s service dog, a labradoodle, was born this month. The family was able to find a trainer from Peach on a Leash in Cumming who will begin working with the puppy once he or she is 6 weeks old.
“With Peach on a Leash, Ollie will be able to grow up alongside the puppy, and help with the puppy’s training,” Dasher said. “They will basically be able to start forming a bond and relationship right away.”
The family also created a group on Facebook titled “A Dog for Ollie” which serves as a way to allow the community to follow his journey to getting a service dog.
“For everyone who is helping, I want them to be able to see the journey because it’s just a beautiful story about a boy and his dog,” Casey said.