Angie Porter just sat down to use the bathroom. Like any mother, she’s used to being interrupted during even the most private of moments, and this time will be no exception. She works at home while caring for four boys, aged 15 down to just two, and moments alone are few and far between. Her husband, John, is a Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant. In the solitude of the bathroom, she wonders how she will manage when he becomes deployable again in July. Life has become different for the Porters since his last deployment to Afghanistan in 2011.
The Porters used to exist like many of us do, taking for granted the ease with which they were able to visit the grocery store, the museum, go see a movie. It’s been a long time since they were able to take a walk without extra precautions. These are the thoughts that invade Angie’s mind in the momentary quiet of the bathroom. She tells me, “I feel like I’m on house arrest 95% of the time…I’m unable to take them safely anywhere by myself. Right now I grocery shop at night so that John can stay with the boys. Jack loves going to the store, but unless I’m just running in to get one item, he gets restless…I end up being that mom carrying a screaming kid out while everyone stares and makes nasty comments about discipline; I end up with no groceries and a frustrated child. I have no idea how I’m going to make it work once John deploys again.”
An alarm suddenly squeals throughout the house, and she bolts up with no time to wipe, thighs damp as she does a waddle-run down the hallway, hitching up her pants and calling out for Jack. The call is desperate and panicked, as it is every morning. Jack has figured out how to unlock every door and window in the house, and no amount of new-fangled closures can keep him inside for long, which is one reason why Angie never gets more than 30 seconds of breath to herself each day, and why the Porter family has been paying for window and door alarm services for months.
“What do I miss most about average days? Feeling connected to John and our other boys. Twice in the last year we’ve been able to do something as a family, and even then, within an hour everyone was frustrated. I feel like the other boys miss out, and it is supremely unfair to them. They always give, but I wish we could do things as a whole unit.”
As she peels around the corner, her eyes land on the front door hanging wide open, and beyond it, the unmistakable jiggling white bottom of a 3-year-old, running as fast as he can out of the driveway. Immediately, her heart is in her throat, her pulse quickens, and she takes off in a dead sprint to catch him.
“Jack is a runner. It’s what he loves to do, through and through. We used to go on walks, and the minute we’d step out the front door, Jack’s feet would be going as fast as his little body could move them. John or I would walk with the rest of the boys while one of us just runs next to Jack, making sure he doesn’t make a right turn toward the lake, or a left out in front of traffic. He can run for an hour straight, more than John and I can keep up! Currently, he is obsessed with running to the neighbor’s house. That’s a good thing, because the neighbors are to the right. To the left is the main road.”
And so today, Angie catches Jack again. As she wraps her arms around him, her breathing returns to normal, and she begins to swallow gravel as tears well up in her eyes, thankful that today he is safe again. She mutters another broken Spanish apology to the woman next door who speaks no English, but who has grown used to ending up with a naked three-year-old on her front porch. Angie picks Jack up, carries him inside, and prepares herself to do the whole thing over again later this afternoon.
Jack was diagnosed with autism shortly after his third birthday. For the first two years of his life, Jack hit most of his physical milestones with no issue. When Angie expressed concerns to his pediatrician that Jack’s language skills were falling behind, she was largely ignored and her worries minimized. “He doesn’t need to talk as much when he has older brothers and so many other people doing it for him,” he said. But as time progressed, Jack didn’t, and in Angie’s words, “Jack was becoming more and more frustrated, and harder and harder to figure out.” She finally went straight through Tricare (military health insurance) to have him tested for autism.
Today, Jack has obsessions and triggers which rule much of the family life. He is unable to sleep unless touching someone. His Sensory Processing Disorder causes him to cast off the idea of wearing clothing altogether. He is obsessed with his own poop, and smears it all over his body like war paint whenever he gets the chance. His only speed is hyperspeed, as he runs full blast in any open direction he’s given. And like many children living with autism, his love for water makes his escape-artist behavior even more dangerous.
Here’s where you (all of you out there reading this) come in to the story. The Porter family has been raising money to get Jack an autism service dog for months. A service dog would help Jack with his Sensory Processing Disorder by delivering the constant touch that Jack craves. A dog would help to keep Jack safe by alerting Angie when he tries to escape the house. A dog can help regulate the huge emotions trapped in Jack’s little body, easing his sensory overload, give him a focal point, and serve as a grounding wire for all the continuous firing of synapses going on in Jack’s brain. The benefits of a service dog to little Jack are too many to name, but most importantly, the therapy provided by this constant companion would help teach Jack how to show his love to the world. And he has so much love to give.
On top of raising four boys, Angie works over 40 hours per week with her home business, Little Sacred Mountain. She sews handmade children’s toys into the night and through the weekend, missing precious time with her husband and other boys. With the money she’s been able to put aside (100% of sales), and John’s base pay, they’ve barely been able to scratch the surface of the $17,000 total they’ll need to secure a dog for Jack, much less keep the bills paid. A modest fundraiser page has been set up through youcaring.com where at first, donations came quickly but have since dwindled as family and close friends have maxxed out their abilities to contribute. Weekly postings to the fundraiser link online are no longer bringing in the response they once did. After months of saving and fundraising, the Porters still need $13,000. Plans are in the works for a small charity auction to be held on Facebook, but as expenses for Jack continue to build, as more and more of Angie’s time is spent away from her business to care for her son, and as new ideas to raise money are few, the family is left holding on to the thinnest of hopeful strings. Because autism doesn’t slow down for families to raise money.
To make donations for Jack’s Autism therapy dog, please visit:
To bid on charity auction items (or to donate to the auction) – join the auction’s Facebook Group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/raisingjacksjumps/ or search for “Raising Jack Jumps”
To support Little Sacred Mountain (100% of proceeds go to Jack’s fundraising efforts):