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Family of 10-year-old raising money to get special allergy dog

With a severe peanut and tree nut allergy, 10-year-old Grace Denney’s life is much different than most kids her age. Her allergy is so severe that even smelling any kind of nuts can send her into anaphylactic shock. At school, her classroom is nut free, but she can rarely go over to friends’ houses for fear that something might set off her allergy. Once, it was set off just by walking into a Dunkin’ Donuts.

But soon she might have just the solution: Her own “allergy alert” dog, of which there are only about 50 in the whole country. Through an application with Angel Service Dogs, a dog will be ready for Grace by the end of June, but the family needs to raise about $20,000 for purchasing the dog and traveling to Colorado for some training. A

fundraising event will be held today from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Pines Community Center on Summer Street in Northfield. More information is available at facebook.com/angelforgrace.

Richelle Angeli spoke about her daughter’s journey:

How bad is Grace’s allergy? Grace is severely allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, even if she comes in contact them she goes into a shock – her throat closes up and she’s unable to breathe. It’s pretty much life or death. The more exposure she has, her reactions get worse every time. So it’s not only ingestion, it’s touching and coming into contact, and even the smell of peanut butter really, really bothers her.

How does this affect her everyday life? You always have to have the EpiPen on you, (and) you have to have the whole medical bag. She really can’t be on her own, she can’t be a kid, really.

How will this dog help? It’s crucial on our end right now because Grace will be going into fifth grade, and with fifth grade she actually changes classrooms. Right now she’s isolated in a peanut- (and) tree-nut-free classroom. Fifth grade comes with changing classes all day long, she’s going to have more exposure. That’s really where the dog will be really helpful, ’cause the dog will go into the classroom, do an inspection and alert Grace whether it’s safe or not. . . . I’m told that they can sniff out a peanut in a leaf pile outside.

Will the dog travel with her everywhere? It will go to school with her, it will go on the bus with her, it will go to church with her, it will go everywhere with her.

Is she excited? She’s very excited, but there’s a lot of money to raise, so we don’t know if we’re going to get there or not. The trouble is Angel (the dog) is ready to be graduated in June. And if we don’t raise the money by the end of May, then Angel needs to be released from the program, therefore she needs to go to somebody else who has raised the funds. At that point they don’t have another graduating class till mid-February.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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