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Family Receives $4,000 Toward Service Dog Training

The Martinez-Vega family received two donations of $2,000 on Friday, adding to the current goal of $7,000 to pay for service dog training to assist their daughter with ongoing medical conditions. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

Thanks to recent monetary donations, a local family will likely be able to complete payments for a service dog who has been assisting their daughter with medical conditions.

“We’re getting close,” said Angeliz Martinez-Vega, mother of Ziulianis Martinez-Vega, or Zuzu.

The Post-Journal previously reported on Zuzu and her family who have been training the goldendoodle dog named Hope to become a certified service dog. Zuzu was diagnosed with autism, tremors, night terrors and anxiety at the age of 3. Now the 7-year-old has been already benefiting from the comfort that is brought by the service-dog-in-training.

The total cost of training, medical expenses and other services provided by New Hope Assistance Dogs, Inc, is about $7,000. Since publication of Zuzu’s and Hope’s story, the family has seen a bump in GoFundMe donations in addition to two donors coming forward to donate a combined sum of $4,000 on Friday.

“Thank you,” Zuzu said Friday to the two donors Jamie Billquist of Rosie’s Run and John LaBardo, Southern Tier Financial owner.

With additional monetary donations likely coming from the scheduled spaghetti dinner on Jan. 21 at the First Church of God in Jamestown, Angeliz-Martinez believes the family will likely be keeping Hope.

“With what we get from the spaghetti dinner, we should have enough,” she said.

The mother estimated the family currently has received $5,500, adding that the family is responsible for certain expenses for hope like trimmings, its rabies shot and other medical costs.

“I am very grateful. This is truly a huge blessing. I didn’t expect this. This is really a big blessing for us,” she said.

Sandy Ahlgren, an employee at Southern Tier Financial, helped organized the recent donations from her boss, LaBardo, and her friend Billquist.

When LaBardo read about the Martinez family’s ongoing campaign, he decided to help with the intent to “share our blessings.”

“I do have in my family someone that is in a somewhat similar situation and it touched my heart and I just thought it would be nice thing to see if we could help out,” LaBardo said.

Billquist, who began the Rosie’s Run foundation to help people in need in the region in honor of his late wife Rosemary Billquist, said the Martinez-Vega’s family’s story had an impact on him as well. Both Billquist and LaBardo presented the family with checks of $2,000 each on the steps of the family home.

“I thought why don’t we just match that, and I have (family members) who also have autism and it touched my heart too,” Billquist said of matching LaBardo’s donation. “It’s a great thing. I wish I could help so many more people. … It’s a good thing. It makes you feel good. Especially with me with my wife’s passing. It helps me. All these little things help me.”

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