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Farmingdale girl raises $15G to pay for diabetes alert dog

The family of Emma Brussell, 8, of Farmingdale spoke on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017 about the money they received from two donors who read about the little girl's fundraising efforts to buy a $15,000 diabetes alert dog and wanted to help, anonymously. Emma, who has Type 1 diabetes, was auctioning her original paintings on Facebook and exceeded her goal after her story appeared in Newsday. (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

Emma Brussell, a vivacious eight-year-old from Farmingdale who has Type 1 diabetes, and who was auctioning her paintings on Facebook to pay for a $15,000 diabetic alert dog, met and exceeded her goal after her story appeared in Newsday.

“We received large sums of money from two different donors who read the story and just wanted to help but asked to remain anonymous,” said Kelly Lynn Holmes, Emma’s mother.

The family has received many Facebook comments, private messages and emails from people wanting to buy Emma’s paintings or donate money after the story appeared on Newsday.com on Saturday morning and in the Sunday edition of the paper.

“It’s all been kind of a surreal whirlwind. I just couldn’t believe that in 24 hours I’d be filling out the online forms to get the process started so Emma can get her dog,” Holmes said.

Holmes turned in an application to Diabetic Alert Dogs of America, a Nevada-based for-profit organization that trains, matches and delivers diabetic alert dogs, which use their sense of smell to detect low or high blood sugar levels, and then alert owners.

“Once we process her application and receive a $2,500 deposit we’ll put Emma on an 8- to 10-week waitlist, during that time we’ll match her to a dog,” said Christie Weaver, Client Services Director at Diabetic Alert Dogs of America.

Dogs trained by the organization complete an extensive training process of about eight months in which they acquire “scent” and “lifestyle” skills.

“We need to make sure the dog is comfortable in crowds, in a third grade classroom, at a basketball game, we need to make sure he’ll fit right into Emma’s lifestyle,” she said.

The organization delivers about 10 fully-trained dogs each month and has trained over 600 dogs in the past nine years, Weaver said.

A diabetic alert dog is a complement to a continuous glucose monitor — a small wearable device that tracks glucose levels — but not a replacement, Weaver said.

Holmes said she is in the process of making digital prints of her daughter’s art work, and has set up an email account, emmasjourney2017@gmail.com, for inquiries about Emma’s paintings. Holmes also has contacted an attorney to inquire about starting a nonprofit foundation to help other children diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes get alert service dogs.

“Emma’s still on a cloud. She was so excited, just beaming!” said Holmes. “We were lying in bed last night talking about everything and she’s, like, ‘yeah, I want to keep painting. It would be nice if another kid asked for a dog for Christmas then maybe I could be like an elf and put it under the tree.’”

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