Niverville Family Fundraises for a Service Dog


1 Niverville Family Fundraises For A Service Dog Pic1
Back Row: Steve Fast, Stan Hiebert, Tyler Wiebe, Pierre Demers, Collin Funk, Joel Martens, Ray Dowse. Front Row: Courtney & Gavyn Demers Cara Dowse

One Niverville couple just got a big boost in its efforts to purchase and train a service dog for their son. Eight-year-old Gavyn Demers was diagnosed three years ago with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

“Over the years we have had our good days, our bad days, and days we try and forget,” say Courtnay and Pierre, Gavyn’s parents. “We watch Gavyn struggle on a daily basis. We watch him try and process the world around him. No matter how hard the struggles get, he continues to fight.”

Children with autism find themselves in a near-constant state of anxiety as a result of their impaired understanding of relationships and the social expectations of everyday life. Children with SPD have trouble detecting and interpreting sensory input from the world around them. For example, children with SPD can be overwhelmed by the process of interpreting feelings of hot and cold, tiredness, and hunger. They also routinely struggle to identify lights and sounds, triggering atypical responses that can be unexpected and difficult to deal with. It’s not uncommon for people with SPD to have extreme reactions to certain textures, noises, foods, and change, and their physical coordination is often affected.

Although SPD was until recently considered to be a symptom of autism, studies have now shown that the two are separate disorders and that one can occur without the other. Unfortunately, Gavyn has both.

Service animals are a proven form of therapy for these disorders, but the extensive costs associated with them are not covered by Manitoba Health, leaving families like the Demers in the lurch.

“The only provinces that do it, I think, are B.C., Alberta, and Ontario,” says Pierre Demers. “Then you go on a wait list, and it could take three to four years. So everything is on slowdown.”

Fortunately, the family discovered MSAR, a private organization right here in Manitoba that specializes in training service dogs. The cost to purchase and train their dog, Hero, is approximately $30,000. The training process takes more than a year, and Hero likely won’t be ready to serve until next summer.

To help meet these expenses, the Demers have planned a fundraising social for Saturday, November 11. It will take place at the TransCanada Centre in Île-des-Chênes and run from 8:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m.

“Because of that long weekend, usually there’s not much going on,” says Pierre. “We are selling support tickets and also social tickets. The social tickets are $15, and the support tickets are $10.”
So far the family has raised about $12,000.

Masters Donation
Earlier this month, the Demers family was caught by surprise when they received an unexpected email from a group of local golfers.

“The email said, ‘Is it okay if we show up at your house? We have a donation to present to you,’” Pierre explains. “And so they showed up the next day. My wife called, and there was six of them, and they presented us and my son with a cheque. That’s incredible.”

The cheque was for $5,930.

“We had no idea that this was coming,” he adds. “Me and my wife were just speechless. Just for people to be doing that, we’re pretty grateful that this happened.”

The golfers, who organize the annual Niverville Masters Tournament, choose a local cause every year to support. This year, the money was raised by 44 players.

“We started the tournament out as a fun thing for a bunch of friends to have a competitive round of golf,” says Ray Dowse, one of the tournament’s organizers. “We then added in a fundraiser component to raise money for local charities along with the fun game.”

Last year, the golfers made a donation to a family whose son required a specialized surgery only available in the United States. In 2015, the money went to a family whose daughter was born with a rare genetic disorder; they needed a wheelchair-accessible van to transport her and her medical equipment.
“Ever since we started the Masters, we wanted the opportunity to help out organizations and causes in our hometown,” says Joel Martens, another Masters organizer.

In the last 15 years, the Masters has raised more than $34,000 for local causes.

The Tournament
The 2017 Masters was held at the Bear Club Casino and Hotel on the White Bear First Nation near the town of Carlyle, Saskatchewan. The tournament was played at Golf Kenosee on Sunday, August 27, with the preliminary Ryder Cup taking place the day before at White Bear Lake Golf Course. The weather was ideal all weekend, with both the resort and the two courses in excellent condition.

The winner was Stanley Hiebert, receiving his second green jacket with a score of 85. Brian Chornoboy and Adam Wiebe also scored 85, although Hiebert edged them out on a countback. The low net score champion was Collin Funk, with a score of 74 after applying handicaps.

The Ryder Cup preliminary round, staged between Teams Red and Blue, was won by Team Blue. The cup was added to the tournament six years ago, and so far Red and Blue are tied at three wins apiece.

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