Mission accomplished for Ben’s Furrever Friend

by Josh Whitener

Thanks to community support, 7-year-old Ben Shoniker has officially raised enough money to cover the cost of a “Furrever Friend” service dog.

“Thank you for my dog. Love you much,” Ben said last week in a video on his fundraising Facebook page.

Ben struggles with a plethora of medical conditions, including Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, sensory integration, epilepsy, a growth hormone deficiency, a neurological speech disorder, a sleep disorder and developmental delays. Because of his conditions, he has no impulse control and often finds himself in dangerous situations.

Speaking in an interview earlier this year, the family said they’re trying their best to keep Ben safe, but could use some help.

There have been times he’s run out of the house, ending up in a neighbor’s yard or across the street. He’s hidden in the house while his parents have frantically searched for him.
“The hiding is extremely scary because you don’t know if he’s inside or outside,” his dad said. “We don’t know, because he doesn’t answer.”

And, most alarmingly, he fell 20 feet out of an upstairs window onto the Shonikers’ driveway last year, luckily ending up with only two broken wrists, a broken nose and a concussion. “It really is a miracle,” his mom said of him surviving the fall.

That’s where the service dog steps in. Ben’s Furrever Friend will be trained to watch over Ben to ensure his safety, and will know to alert those nearby if Ben is in danger. But the dog will be more than a protector; the Furrever Friend will be a tried and true companion Ben can interact and bond with.

An organization called 4 Paws for Ability supplies the service dog, which costs $20,000. The family was responsible for raising $13,000, a goal they topped by $810 last week. “Stop the donations! I can’t believe I am saying that after only five weeks of fundraising…we did it!” Rebecca Shoniker, Ben’s mom, said on Ben’s fundraising Facebook page. “Thank you. Thank you all!”

To thank the community for its support, the Shonikers will host a “Ben’s Furrever Friend Celebration” from 1 to 4 p.m. on Aug. 4, a Saturday, at Just Chillin’ Frozen Yogurt, located at 6850 Old Monroe Road in Indian Trail. The event will feature a dance-off, prizes and, of course, yogurt. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/FurreverFriendForBenShoniker/events.

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