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Newington Toddler Gets Help From Community

"Kids Sending Smiles" and "Red, Hot and Blue" raise money to fund a service dog for Jake Bulmer.

Jake Bulmer is a two-year-old who lives in the Raceway Farms Subdivision in Newington area with his parents. Mom Dena Sonneborn-Bulmer said Jake is a cute toddler with blond hair and blue eyes who — at his age — is exploring his environment and learning a little bit about independence.

Jake loves chocolate chip cookies, singing and like any baby of the family, getting into his other siblings' belongings. Unlike many two-year-old boys, Jake experiences severe epilepsy. He will be three years old at the end of March and since his second birthday, Jake has spent 40 days in the hospital. So far, his parents and doctors have tried nine different medications to control Jake's seizures.

Sonneborn-Bulmer said Jake was born with developmental delays but didn't experience seizures until after his second birthday. At night, Jake sleeps near his parents so they can take care of him if he has a seizure in the middle of the night.

"Last fall, we started realizing this was going to be a childhood-long battle for us," Sonneborn-Bulmer said. "So we started looking for things we could do that could help Jake have more of a normal childhood."

Currently, Jake is on four different medications and has seizures every day, Sonneborn-Bulmer explained. After a particularly bad seizure, a doctor recommended getting a seizure dog for Jake.

Right now, Jake can't be left alone because of his seizures. He can't sleep in his own bed or do too many activities alone.

"He's still small now, but at some point he's going to want to sleep in his own bed, go to the bathroom or take showers alone, and right now he can't be left alone because it could happen any time," Sonneborn-Bulmer said.

Having a service dog will be a great help to Jake and his family. A seizure dog can alert Jake's parents if he's having a seizure, and it can also be trained to detect a seizure before they start, which is a very difficult skill.

"Because Jake is little and has some other issues, a lot of the seizure medications may cause some behavioral issues like head banging. The dog will be able to disrupt that as well as keep him safe in public," she said.

Jake recently qualified for placement of a 4 Paws for Ability service dog. The organization is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with a unique approach to fundraising. It will cost 4 Paws $22,000 to train and place a dog with Jake. As volunteers, the Bulmer family is committed to raising $13,000.

The community has gotten involved with helping Jake and his family to raise money for the service dog. Red, Hot and Blue BBQ at Landsdowne Shopping Center has organized the event "Pigs for Paws" to raise money from its customers all through the month of March. Manager Gray Hurd said the restaurant has raised about $1,500 since Feb. 28.

"The staff here has really gotten into it, and they're doing an unbelievable job. We've received donations from $2 to $50," Hurd said. "If by the end of the month [of March], we're short of where we want to be, we'll just keep at."

Hurd said for diners who donate at the restaurant, he'll provide them with a $5 coupon. The restaurant will also have a big Give Back Night March 20, but diners are welcome to donate throughout the month.

The Raceway Farm Homeowners Association has also organized a winery tour that it expects will raise $2500.

Children in the community are also getting involved with the fundraising efforts through Kids Sending Smiles, a nonprofit organization founded and run by a group of elementary school girls from Northern Virginia. Members of KSS have chosen Jake's fundraising efforts as their project for the month of March and have organized a raffle, silent auction and dinner at Genghis Grill on April 4.

A portion of meals purchased between 4-10 p.m. will go toward getting a service dog for Jake, and all of the proceeds from the raffle and silent auction will be donated as well.

"Kids Sending Smiles is a group of elementary school kids, mostly girls. And we really just wanted to help out and organize something to make sure Jake gets the service dog he needs," said Laurie Underwood with KSS.

To learn more about Jake and how you can help, visit the Service Dog 4 Jake website here.

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