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posted: 6/9/2014 8:38 AM

Fox Habitat for Humanity partners with family to help autistic son

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By Al Benson
For Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity

Six thousand dollars. That's the goal of a fundraising drive by Montgomery-based Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity to help a future Habitat family's son with autism obtain a service dog.

The Rev. Jeff Barrett, executive director of the Christian housing ministry, is trying to raise the money by June 25.

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The beneficiary will be Joey Genovese, 11, son of Patricia and John Genovese of Aurora. Joey, who is nonverbal, attends Core Academy nonpublic special education school in Aurora.

The Genoveses, including Joey's twin sister, Gianna, hope to close on their east-side Habitat house by June 30.

"A service dog will provide Joey, who is nonverbal, with warmth and security," Barrett said. "Additionally, service dogs prevent bolting, wandering and anxiety manifestations such as outbursts, tantrums, screaming and night terrors.

"This is a special family that has come to Aurora for the special help their son and brother, Joey, needs," Barrett said. "They are hardworking and caring. They put in hundreds of hours working for Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity to give back to others.

"It is an honor to know and work with them. This dog for Joey will have a huge stabilizing factor on his life."

Barrett said that a dog has been selected for Joey and is being trained at a service-dog supplier in Arizona.

"We have raised $8,000 toward the total cost of $14,000. Can you help us raise $6,000 more?" Barrett asks the public.

Fox Valley habitat staffers have helped the Genovese family set up an online site to collect donations. The address is gofundme.com/disfordog.

Joey's mom wrote a letter for her son.

"J is for Joey, that's my name. I am 11 years old and I have a twin sister and a mom and dad. I also have two cats.

"We recently moved to a new house with the help of Habitat for Humanity. I like my new house because I no longer have to share a room with my sister.

"Sometimes it is very scary sleeping in my room alone, so I sleep with the light on. I get anxious and nervous, and I need help to relax and go to sleep.

"I have a lot of new friends and a new school. I really like my new school and my classmates. I get frustrated more easily than my classmates, so I know I am different, but my mommy just tells me I am her special boy.

"Going out with my family is something I enjoy. We go shopping for groceries or go on fun nature walks, but again, I become nervous and anxious.

"A is for Autism. That is what I have. I was diagnosed at the age of 2. I am also nonverbal, so communicating is very difficult for me. I communicate with other people by using my picture exchange system.

"I become very frustrated when I cannot get my needs met or when I am not understood right away.

"I enjoy the outdoors, but I get confused about safety and boundaries. My mom and dad can't take their eyes off me for fear that I may wander off and get hurt.

"D is for Dog. A service dog for someone like me with autism. My family learned that a service dog would help me. The service dog could help keep me safe when I don't remember what I can and cannot do, as well as help with my boundaries.

"A service dog would even help me relax and stay with me throughout the day since I don't like change all that much. I would have someone by my side always.

"We even found a place called Service Dogs for Independence who has agreed to provide a service therapy dog for me, but it costs $14,000. That is why I am introducing myself to you and asking for your help.

"Did you know dog spelled backward is God? My family tells me that God is for always, just like the service dog you can help me get. Thank you."

For information, contact Barrett at (630) 859-333 or J.Barrett@Foxvalleyhabitat.org.

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