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Area natives raising money to buy service dog for son

Tuesday, September 02, 2014 - Updated: 6:50 AM

Amsterdam natives Bob and Krystyn LaBate of Saratoga Springs are working to raise $14,000 to help fund a service dog for their two-year-old son Giovanni LaBate, who is diagnosed with two rare neurological conditions.

"Giovanni has faced many obstacles in his short life," a news release from his mother Krystyn LaBate said. "While most toddlers spend the majority of their day playing with toys, coloring, and looking at books, Giovanni's life has been largely occupied by hospitalizations, doctor's visits, testing, and daily therapy sessions."

The LaBates have begun the process of fundraising for 4 Paws for Ability to gain the credits necessary to earn a multipurpose service dog.

Giovanni suffers from periventricular heterotopia and porencephaly. Periventricular heterotopia is a condition in which the grey matter in the brain does not migrate properly during early fetal development, forming clumps around the ventricles. Most children diagnosed with this condition develop epilepsy, where in some cases the seizures stop responding to medication and only drastic surgical intervention can help control the seizures. While his parents were hoping that he would be in the minority and not develop epilepsy, Giovanni started having seizures shortly after his first birthday. Although the seizures are currently responding to medication, his parents are fearful as they are unpredictable and come without warning. Just to give them peace of mind at night, Giovanni sleeps with a sensor that monitors his breathing.

Shortly before birth, as a result of the periventricular heterotopia, Giovanni suffered a stroke which caused a permanent cerebral spinal fluid-filled cyst to form in his brain called a porencephalic cyst. The stroke itself caused left sided hemiplegia resulting in diminished use of his left arm and leg. Although physical and occupational therapies have helped immensely, Giovanni still continues to struggle with balance, strength, and coordination. His brain has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary to execute skilled motor tasks, such as coordinated movements as well as speech.

One of the biggest challenges Giovanni faces is his inability to cope with his environment. Due to the abnormalities within his brain, he over-responds to sensation and finds certain sensory input to be unbearable which can make it challenging to participate in activities outside of the home. His diminished ability to communicate only makes it more difficult and leads to high levels of frustration and anxiety. There are times when Giovanni becomes so distraught that he avoids all sensory input. He frequently stops eating for days at a time because of this, which has made weight gain a challenge. Although his parents continue to do everything possible to protect him, it's become difficult for Giovanni to build self-confidence, as his independence is quite limited. This is why his parents have chosen to pursue a multipurpose service dog for him.

The benefits that a multipurpose service dog can provide Giovanni are endless as the dog will be specifically trained for his needs. His service dog will be able to alert his family of seizures, giving him the ability to play more independently and partake in more activities. While the dog will be able to provide mobility assistance, one of the biggest benefits is the ability to assist with behavior disruption. When Giovanni is presented with sensory input that he cannot handle, his parents will be able to give commands to the dog, such as touch, kiss, or deep pressure, which will help to redirect Giovanni and prevent sensory overload, allowing him to better cope with his environment. Giovanni will also have the ability to be tethered to the dog while out in public, giving him additional comfort while in an overstimulating environment.

Ohio-based 4 Paws for Ability is an accredited nonprofit organization with a mission to place quality service dogs with children with disabilities. It is the leading provider of specialty-trained dogs for children. They believe that service dogs should be made available to any child with a disability who wishes to have the love, companionship, assistance, and independence that are the result of service dog placement. It will cost 4 Paws for Ability $22,000 to raise and train a service dog to support Giovanni. To enable them to help as many children as quickly as possible, 4 Paws asks each recipient family to fundraise $14,000 to assist in placing the dog. By utilizing this unique fundraising model, each family is able to receive a service dog within one year, as opposed to the two to five years they would have to wait with other nonprofit service dog organizations.

More information on Giovanni and how to make a tax-deductible donation can be found on his Facebook page "Giovanni's Journey" or by visiting his website You may also make a donation in Giovanni LaBate's name by sending a check with his name on the memo line to 4 Paws For Ability, 253 Dayton Ave., Xenia, Ohio, 45385

For more information on 4 Paws for Ability, log on to


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