On Saturday afternoon, Mariana McElroy’s phone started lighting up.
The Collingwood mom is on a quest to raise $15,000 for the cost of training her 11-year-old son Levi’s emotional support dog, Jo-Jo.
After her story was published, she blew past her fundraising goal within 24 hours with multiple kind-hearted readers jumping in with donations to her GoFundMe campaign.
“I hadn’t even received my CollingwoodToday.ca email before the donations started coming in,” said McElroy. “By Sunday morning, I was shedding tears. I was beyond moved by the generosity of everybody.”
Currently, the fundraiser sits at about $17,000. McElroy says the extra $2,000 raised will pay for vet visits and food for Jo-Jo.
“Every cent will go toward the dog,” she said.
McElroy and Levi have been dealt a lot of blows over the past two years. Levi’s father died unexpectedly due to a drug overdose in early 2020, and his uncle drowned in August of the same year near Manitoulin Island trying to save Levi and another child when the three were out swimming.
Levi has been previously diagnosed with Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as social anxiety, separation anxiety, sensory overload and post-traumatic stress disorder.
To help her son deal with his mental health, McElroy decided to get him an emotional support dog. She reached out to many community agencies for assistance, but was dismayed to find that most of them had extensive waiting lists and her son needed help now.
Jo-Jo is three parts poodle, and one part golden retriever. As McElroy covered the costs of his adoption, feeding and vet care, she was looking for help for the cost of the $15,000 emotional support dog training.
“People have no idea how much this is going to help him and how much it means to us. It has removed so much of the personal financial stress, and I know we can follow through with the dog’s training completely without having to stop for financial reasons,” said McElroy.
McElroy said some donors also sent personal messages and words of encouragement, which touched her heart.
“That means so much as well,” she said. “I was shocked that it happened that quickly. I was in awe.”
“‘Thank you’ doesn’t even feel like enough. There just aren’t words for it,” said McElroy.