Phenix City family needs donations for autism service dog

Phenix City family needs donations for autism service dog

PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) - A 4-year-old Phenix City girl and her family are asking for the community's help.

Naomi Baker was diagnosed with autism when she was three.

Their parents say that she often takes off running and doesn't respond much when people speak to her. Although autism effects each child differently, it typically impacts a child's social interaction, communication skills, and cognitive ability.

Two months after diagnosis, Naomi was hospitalized for brain bleeding that occurred from an accident when she wandered away. That's when her parents realized they needed help.

Naomi’s parents, Will and Melissa Baker, are hoping to get an autism service dog to help their daughter. Will and Melissa say it’s hard for their two other children to understand what’s wrong with their sister.

"It's when someone's brain doesn't work the same as others," Naomi's brother, Gabriel said, and he wishes his sister was able to play with him more.

A nonprofit organization called 4 Paws for Ability provides service dogs to children in need worldwide. It costs $14,000 to train the dog, and the family says they can only afford the dog through donations.

The service dog would assist Naomi with sleeping through the night, distracting her from repetitious behaviors, and help her with wandering away, the main purpose of the dog.

4 Paws for Ability reported one case where a child escaped from school up to 20 times a day. Once the child was paired with a service dog, the number of escapes dropped to zero.

“As a father you know your first instinct is you always want to protect your kids," Will said. "I think a lot of parents take for granted you know something as simple as when you tell your child to stop when they’re running into the street. You know for her, she doesn’t have a sense of danger.”

The family started fundraising in February, and have so far raised $2,500. After five months and more than $13,000 to go, Will and Melissa say they feel discouraged, but continue to pray that their goal will be met.

Since starting the donation drive, they have held fundraisers at Crazy Dave's on the Fourth of July and this weekend at The Frogtown Hollow Jam.

Donations to the Baker family are tax deductible. You can donate online at by searching for Naomi Baker, or mailing checks "For Naomi Baker" to 4 Paws for Ability.

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