Kiel and his neighbour's dog

Kelowna family fundraising for service dog

Six year old Kiel has autism, and his family is raising $25,000 to get him a trained autism service dog

Kiel Kowch has been faced with challenges his entire life.

Born at 30 weeks, Kiel was in and out of the hospital regularly and at the age of four he was diagnosed with autism. Now six years old, Kiel is in kindergarten. However, he only has about 20 words he uses, and in essence doesn’t talk. He also deals with extreme anxiety issues, as he can’t enter any new places like grocery stores or malls as he is overcome by terror. He also doesn’t have the ability to naturally calm down when he gets very excited and he instead bites his wrist, often to the point of drawing blood, as his way of calming down.

Kiel’s family is fundraising to get him an autism service dog, which would go everywhere with him, including school. His mother Tracy noted having a service dog could help him lead a normal life, as she has heard nothing but positive stories about other autistic children who have service dogs.

“The anxiety was gone, the child could now go into stores they couldn’t before, it helped with companionship and socialization,” she said. “If you don’t talk, it’s really hard for other ids to play with him. I don’t know who to invite to his birthday parties, because I don’t know who his friends are because he can’t tell me. He’s really missed out on a lot in his life, and we’re hoping this will allow him to lead a normal life like a normal six year old should.”

There is a government program that can provide autistic children with trained service dogs, however it has a four to six year waiting list and currently isn’t accepting applications. It also has a cutoff age of ten, meaning by the time Kiel finally got through the list he would no longer be eligible. Tracy did manage to find a solution, as she learned about a company in Vancouver that trains and sells autism service dogs. However the dog comes with a price tag of $25,000, which has lead to the fundraising.

“On June 11th, my nine year old daughter, myself and some other friends will be biking from the Minstrel Cafe down to Stuart Park, and we’re asking for donations or sponsorships,” Tracy said. “It’s a pretty long jaunt for a nine year old girl on her bike, but she wanted to help raise money for her brother. We’re basically asking the community to help support us to get this dog for our son.”

There is also a website set up for donations, asdbc.org/a-friend-for-kiel, which provides a tax receipt for any donations. For any other inquiries about Kiel or the fundraising, Tracy can be contacted at 250-864-2341 or tracykowch@yahoo.ca.