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Service Dogs Help Celebrate Autism Awareness Month in Westchester

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Photos courtesy of BluePath Service Dogs, Inc.

BluePath Service Dogs raises money this April to help bring aid and companionship to children throughout the Hudson Valley.

March 23 is National Puppy Day, so we thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to spotlight a fantastic local initiative coming in the next week.

BluePath Service Dogs, Inc., is dedicated to providing service dogs for children with autism. The local company is based out of Hopewell Junction and serves Westchester and the lower Hudson Valley, with many local trainers and volunteers. In honor of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, all donations made between April 1 and 3 will be matched by BluePath supporters Carol Parish and Marty Zeldin.

At the heart of this mission are the nonprofit’s puppy raisers, including Ana Montoya, a coach at CrossFit Bedford Hills, who has spent two years raising Colby, a lovable black Labrador, at the Bedford Hills gym. The flow of new people, sights, and sounds at CrossFit Bedford Hills provided great socialization for Colby as he grew up.

Baby-Colby-at-CFBH-tall

The good boy

“Dogs are amazing and offer an unparalleled connection with humans,” says Montoya. “The decision to raise Colby happened very quickly. I really had the desire to do something that goes beyond me and I knew this was my opportunity to make a big impact, ultimately changing an entire family’s future for the better.”

“Puppy raising has absolutely been an experience that will shape the rest of my life,” she adds.

CrossFit Bedford Hills owner Michael MacDowell has been incredibly supportive of BluePath at the gym. “The CrossFit community believes in empowering people to lead the fullest lives possible. Colby’s purpose as a service dog is perfectly aligned with that philosophy,” he says. “Not only do our members enjoy participating in his journey, they also love his consistent encouragement during the workouts. Particularly during the challenges of the past year, Colby’s enthusiasm for life makes all of us smile.”

Ana-with-baby-Colby-at-CFBHAccording to the Autism Society of America, autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the Unites States, with a dramatic increase in diagnoses from 2000 (one in 150) to today (one in 59). BluePath dogs significantly reduce parents’ safety concerns and help children to lead fuller lives. Reduced stress, improved sleeping routines, and more meaningful social interactions can allow families to feel a renewed sense of hope and empowerment.Ana-Montoya-and-Michael-MacDowell

Each BluePath dog comes with thousands of hours of training from dedicated volunteers and professional staff like Montoya. While the cost to prepare these incredible dogs is upwards of $40,000, BluePath provides them – and intensive, ongoing follow-up support – completely free of charge. With more than 100 active volunteers, BluePath continues to pave the way for those with autism to have the love and support of a furry friend. To donate during the match window (or any time of year), click here.