A Wispact Beneficiary and Service Dog

NIc and Patch, along with parents, Donna and Art

Our mission at Wispact is to improve the lives of people with disabilities across Wisconsin through the management of special needs trusts. We are continually amazed at the wide variety of ways we’ve been able to fulfill our mission and we’d like to share a unique and heart-warming story of the empowering bond between Nic and his support dog, Patch.

Like all parents, Donna and Art have a dream for their son Nic, who was born with Down syndrome, is largely non-verbal, and has a hard time communicating his thoughts, feelings and needs. Donna and Art first learned about Wispact when they received a modest settlement for Nic as the result of a negligence lawsuit for mistreatment during a special needs summer camp outing. By establishing a special needs trust through Wispact, the family was able to maintain Nic’s social security income which is important for his continued support.

“Securing a service animal for Nic has been something we’ve been hoping for the last six years, and Wispact’s support has been a blessing for us in this situation.” — Art

As Nic grew, his needs and opportunities for support evolved and Donna and Art felt that adding a service dog would be a valuable addition to their family. After a national search, an ideal companion named Patch was found for Nic. Patch graduated from Medical Mutts, a service dog training school in Indianapolis, Indiana. Patch is trained to be a calming presence for Nic when he becomes frustrated. Patch is also trained to help Nic with sleep disorders, and allow him more independence while walking. Perhaps most significant is the increase in Nic’s speech. “We had only seen pictures of Patch and when the time finally came to meet him, we were all very anxious. When Nic first met Patch he immediately uttered, ‘How are you Doggie?’ More than just words, Nic spoke an actual sentence, which is very rare” Donna said. “In addition to Nic’s vocalizations, he has taken on a lot more responsibility. Nic feeds Patch and takes him for walks,” Art added.

Unfortunately, Nic’s special needs trust was not large enough to cover the total expense for Patch including travel, training, and adoption. When Amy Voss, Wispact Beneficiary Specialist, discovered the financial need, she recommended the family apply for a Wispact grant to cover the total cost to bring Patch home. The resulting support through the grant enabled Patch to join the family and he has been a dream come true.

We quickly learned that Patch would be so much more than a service dog to Nic. One night, shortly after we got Patch, we were awakened by a very bad thunderstorm. Since Patch was new to the family, we didn’t realize that he was frightened of storms. When we checked in on them, we thought Patch would be comforting Nic. But it was actually Nic who was comforting Patch. Nic was petting him and loving him because Patch was obviously in distress. We were surprised that Nic could sense that Patch was upset and he, in turn, helped calm Patch down. It was then we realized that the two were forming a relationship that will benefit them both for many years to come.

“Wispact is obviously a much-needed vehicle for helping families with special needs members maintain their benefits. Also, any funds that are placed into the trust will be made available to others with special needs in the event Nic should pass away before being able to utilize them.” Art concluded.

In closing, Patch is also a very special dog in his own right. If you’d like to read more about his story or more about Medical Mutts, check out this link: https://www.facebook.com/reel/1488077361993842