What makes four-year-old David Hartley appear like any other child, often hides the challenges he faces.
"His biggest problem is that he bolts," said mother Cindi Hartley of Maize. "He gets away and he has no sense of danger."
Hartley says it's part of David's severe autism.
"You wash your face, brush your teeth, no big deal right? But for an autistic child with severe sensory issues it can be a huge deal, it can be painful, it can be frightening," Hartley said.
When he gets overloaded, he can go into meltdowns and beat himself. He also struggles with communication. His severe autism makes going to the park, the store, and school nearly impossible. His mother says the autism symptoms limit what he as a young boy should be able to enjoy.
"It creates a passion inside of you to do whatever you can, to find whatever you can, to seek whatever you can, to help him," Hartley said.
In her search to help David, she found an organization that offers specially-trained service dogs for children with severe autism.
"Not only can have have a dog that is his friend, because he loves dogs, it can train him not to bolt, it can find him like a search and rescue if he gets away," Hartley said.
But now comes the real challenge for this single mother of two who has a disability of her own. Cindi suffers from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which weakens her knees and hips and make mobility very difficult. In addition to David, she supports her three-year-old son, Joshua.
Hartley says her family already has been accepted into a service dog program.
"The rest is just trying to raise the money to pay for the dog," Hartley said.
The dogs cost between $16,000 and $18,000 because of the extensive, specialized training they go through.
But Hartley says having a protector for her precious David is worth much more than that.
"To sum it up, having a service dog that's highly-trained and able to help him would mean his childhood," Hartley said. "He would get it back."
You can donate any time directly to the Hartley's. Donations are tax-deductible. You may use paypal or send a check in the mail. Information on where to send your donations can be found on the website: http://dogfordavid.com/.
On the website, you'll also find information about how to buy raffle tickets for a raffle of a new car (donated by Randy Eck Ford). The tickets are $10. The raffle is scheduled for December.
Also on DogforDavid.com, you'll find a video Cindi put together with a friend that explains autism and the challenges her son David and others face.
There is another fundraiser coming up on November 5th at T.G.I. Friday's at New Market Square.
To follow Cindi and her family in their journey, you may visit http://dogfordavid.wordpress.com/ Cindi posts diary entries regularly. Or visit, http://www.facebook.com/DogForDavidcom.