Autistic boy, 6, receives help getting service dog

$8K raised for boy to get dog

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Six-year-old Ryan Benedict has autism and needed help getting a service dog.

His family teamed up with local nonprofit Project Chance to get Ryan his service dog, the cost for which is $8,000.

The family has already raised about $5,000 but was asking the community for help with the remaining $3,000. By Thursday afternoon, that help came.

The Fraternal Order of Police donated $1,000 and the Stellar Group gave $1,980 to help the family reach their fundraising goal.

"I understand that he can only be emotionally attached to me so much, and if this dog is the magical key, then that's awesome, and he loves her," Ryan's mother, Jinnie Benedict, said.

Ryan is already bonding with the dog named Chatham. His mother and his 11-year-old sister have already begun training with the Golden Retriever. They are supposed to bring the service dog into the home for a weekend in February, then slowly transition it into the home full-time -- they are hoping by the summer.

"This is it for Ryan. This is his moment," Jinnie said.

She said Ryan is severely autistic and undergoes numerous types of therapy to try to make life easier on him. He also attends a school for autistic and developmentally challenged children.

"He can't hold a conversation. He can't even tell you what he wants for dinner sometimes. It's very hard," Jinnie said.

The family hopes Chatham will help Ryan relax, because often when he's out in public, he gets very upset, disruptive and tries to run away. They hope attaching Chatham to Ryan will help him.

The family is throwing a pancake breakfast fundraiser event at Applebee's at the St. Johns Town Center on Jan. 26 from 8-10 a.m. despite already reaching their goal. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children. The money will be used toward other anticipated needs for Ryan.

The Benedicts also have a website set up to donate.

"All we can do is try to help him fit into our world," Jinnie said.

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