Canine Companions For Independence Graduation At Kinkeade Campus Changed Lives For Both Humans And Their New BFF

Linda and Terrence Marler

May is filled with graduations and that applies to pooches as well as youngsters. On Friday, May 5, Canine Companions for Independence held a graduation ceremony at its Canine Companions for Independence Kinkeade Campus at the Baylor Scott and White Health facilities in Irving. It was overflowing with humans like Jan Rees-Jones with Susan McSherry, Baylor Animal Assisted Therapy Coordinator Linda Marler and her husband Terrence Marler as well as four-legged types.

Before the graduation took place, U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade, who had been the driving force for Texas’ only CCI, teased new Baylor Scott and White CEO Jim Hinton, who had just recently arrived in North Texas from New Mexico: “When Jim first got here, he asked me what are those green objects. I told him, ‘Jim, I know you’re from New Mexico, but those are trees. We have a lot of those here.’ ”

Jim and Kristen Hinton and Ed Kinkeade

Following Ed, Jim told the crowd, “I love my wife first, I love my dogs second and I love my kids third and I’m completely unapologetic about that.”

Despite the Hinton dogs still living for the time being in New Mexico, Jim confessed that he does Facetime with them. “The good news is that they recognize my voice and I’m still a little bit of a wag. I miss those dogs terribly. To me this effort is a convergence of two things that I am passionate about: one is dogs and the other one is healthcare, taking care of people. We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Judge Ed Kinkeade. It is his vision; it is his passion; it is his unique way that has caused this to exist.”

Jim recalled his attending the previous graduation and “I asked the question that all first-time guests ask, ‘Why are all these Kleenex boxes sitting around?’ And so for the past several months, I’ve been building up this moment with my wife [Kristen] and she is with me today. I’ve noticed that she’s already getting a little teary and we haven’t even started the darn program yet. So, she’s going to be a mess before this thing is over. ”

Luckily, there were boxes of tissues placed throughout the room. Sure, it was Cinco de Mayo to the rest of the world, but it was a parting of relationships for some in the room and for others it was the coming together for a lifelong journey.

Canine Companion for Independence puppy in training

Canine Companion for Independence puppy graduate Dutch II

One group consisted of young Labradors that for two years had been raised through the “awkward years,” thanks to volunteer puppy raisers. These dogs had been loved, hugged and been exposed to the world. Now, they were leaving the comfort of their homes and stepping up to a new level of education that would take place at the facility for months by skilled trainers. Their goal was to become the “companions” for those in need.  

Judy Schumpert and #18

A word about the puppy raisers; they range from all types. Some are families; some are prisoners; and then there was Judy Schumpert, who was turning in her 18th dog and already training her 19th : “I’m either on a mission for God or a glutton for punishment. I’ve got to keep doing it until I can do it no more.”

It’s hard to imagine anyone living, loving and working with a puppy for two years and then giving them up. New puppy raisers Mary Catherine Lombardi and Erica Hotvedt admitted, “When we got started, I think we knew what we were getting into. But I think the final goodbyes are harder than we expected.”  They recognized that their puppy Yoshi III, however, was destined for a truly remarkable role.

That purpose became so apparent when the graduation of the new teams took place. For the past two weeks, the seven humans had arrived and lived at the facility to be matched and trained with their new best friends.


Chosen as class spokesperson for the graduating teams, Edgar, with Chase V at his side, eloquently told of the importance of this program for the graduating humans. One was an autistic child, whose outbursts would “calm down immediately” when her pooch, Tess VI, “came to the rescue.” Thomas, whose weakened motor skills caused by cerebral palsy resulted in his dropping things to the floor, had been helped by  Atlas IV retrieving them for him. Wheel-chair-bound youngster Lauren‘s arm was subject to bouts of spasticity and limited control, but when Egan II lay down at her side, it was still and under control. Edgar himself admitted that there were times when he would fall out of his wheelchair and Chase’s bark command would sound the alert for assistance. Thanks to Dutch II, wheelchair-bound Lauren was looking forward to getting out on her own and not being “a burden on my parents.” Sara, who works with first responders in dealing with PTSD, would be assisted in the future by Aiken II, who would be “the non-judging entity in the room that helps the patients relax.” 

From the left: (seated) CCI graduate team Lauren and Egan; (standing) Puppy raisers Andrew, Ella, Mark, Angela and Lauren’s mother

Edgar continued, “These stories are a mere excerpt of what has happened in the past 10 days. Can you imagine what is going to happen in the next 10 years? All of us graduates would like to say thank you for being here today, whether you’re a donor, a puppy raiser, a volunteer. Even if this is your first time with Canine Companions, that’s how it starts. That how you get the ball rolling.”

Summing up the two weeks of team training, he addressed his fellow graduates: “We arrived as seven families, but today we graduate as one. And here we stand on the brink of a 10-year-journey. It won’t always be easy, but I promise it will be worth it. All the troubles that we deal with daily will soon be alleviated by an incredible new resource, my new best friend that is unconditionally at our side just waiting to help anyway they can. Thank you.”

As the new teams headed home for a new life of independence, the new recruits were taken to their CCI spotless digs for the next step in their education to be a life-changing partner for someone in need.   

Lauren and her mother

And that’s why the boxes of Kleenex were throughout the hall.

MySweetCharity Photo Gallery: Canine Companions For Independence Graduation

Canine Companions for Independence South Central Training Center

Unlike many May graduates who have diplomas but are in need of jobs, the Canine Companions for Independence graduates left the stage for a lifelong career with their human partners on Friday, May 5. Also as part of the ceremony at the Kinkeade Campus at Baylor Scott and White Health facilities in Irving were the puppies that have been raised by volunteers for nearly two years. They were turned over by their puppy raisers to CCI trainers to see if they, too, would make the grade.

As the class spokesperson said, “We arrived as seven families, but today we graduate as one.” Needless to say, there was plenty of Kleenex put to use for the standing-room-only crowd.

Lauren and her mother

As the post is being completed, check out the pooches and people at MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.

North Texas Giving Day Booster: Autism Treatment Center

“Founded in 1976, the Autism Treatment Center provides life-changing autism-specific services to North Texas children and adults with autism. Autism is the nation’s leading development disability and currently affects 1 in 68 children, causing a delay in effective communication and socialization. Individuals with autism also often have restrictive interests and sensory challenges. Early-intervention services, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Speech, Occupational, and Physical therapies are provided at ATC’s out-patient Therapy Clinic to help increase independence and self-sufficiency for a life-time of success.

Autism Treatment Center*

Autism Treatment Center*

“ATC’s services have evolved to respond to the needs of the community. When our organization started providing services for six Dallas families, not much was known about autism or how to treat it. Over 39 years, our program has expanded to meet the needs of the community and we now field over 1,500 phone calls from families searching for services.

Autism Treatment Center*

Autism Treatment Center*

“The Autism Treatment Center operates Dallas’ only Texas Education Agency-approved school with an autism-specific curriculum from its Crystal Charity Ball Educational Wing. The school provides year-round services to 45 children with autism using innovative technology to teach educational and daily-living skills. Upon graduation, individuals transition into the Adult Services program where they have opportunities to provide volunteer services to other Dallas County nonprofit organizations. Each month, volunteers provide over 1,600 hours of volunteer service.

Autism Treatment Center*

Autism Treatment Center*

“We appreciate the support of the North Texas community to assist us in our social mission to assist people with autism and related disorders throughout their lives as they learn, play, work and live in the community. North Texas Giving Day is a wonderful opportunity for the community to learn more about our program and support a cause that is affecting more and more families in our community.

“To learn more about the programs and services of the Autism Treatment Center, please visit To access ATC’s Giving Day profile and make a donation, please follow the link”

-By Anna Hundley, Autism Treatment Center executive director

*  Graphic and photos provided by Autism Treatment Center

MySweetCharity Opportunity: Pegasus Ball

According to Pegasus Ball Honorary Co-Chair Sharon Folsom,

Steve and Sharon Folsom*

Steve and Sharon Folsom*

On September 19, 2015, my husband Steve and I, along with our entire family – Hunter, Chase and Annabelle – will welcome guests to this year’s Gatsby-themed Pegasus Ball to benefit the Autism Treatment Center. We are excited to serve as the honorary chairmen of this exciting event. We are also excited to announce that Media Sponsor CBS news host Kaley O’Kelley will serve as mistress of ceremonies at the event.

“Five years ago, our son, Chase, enrolled in the Autism Treatment Center’s Educational Program. Steve and I have been very pleased with Chase’s progress and the wonderful staff at ATC. He recently moved into a group home at ATC and couldn’t be happier. We are grateful for the services ATC offers to families in need of their 39 years of experience providing autism specific services.

“The Roundup for Autism has raised funds for ATC since 1988 when Founder Bobby Norris established the event in honor of his daughter, who was also diagnosed with autism. The Roundup is one of Texas’ largest fundraisers for autism and has raised much-needed funds to keep up with the needs of the community.

The Fairmont Hotel is the host hotel of this event. Additional cash sponsors include: Frost Bank, Norris Foundation, Cinch, and Celebrity Cruises.

For more information about the Pegasus Ball, please visit To learn more of ATC’s autism-specific services, including out-patient Medicaid-approved therapies, please visit

* Photo provided by Roundup For Autism

Callier Cares Saluted An Attorney And A Doctor Plus A Mom Helped By Callier Center For Communication Disorders And “Hope”

Being a parent doesn’t offer much if one looks at it as a career choice. The hours are a nightmare — 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for a lifetime. There are no raises, vacations or promotions. Working conditions are rugged. Rarely do you have time to yourself. You are likely to graduate from baby spit-ups to staying up all night waiting for your “child” to make it home safely from a date.

Still the longterm benefits are worth it all — grandchildren, hugs and the smiles that grow with the years. The good news is that over the years, the kids do “grow up” and act…well, like grown-ups.

But there are parents who may not look forward to such self-sufficiency and rewards since their children have autism and, depending upon the degree, may be dependent upon their parents all their lives.

Rhoni Golden

Rhoni Golden

That situation became very apparent at Brook Hollow on Thursday, April 30, as Callier Cares Luncheon speaker Rhoni Golden told of the life journey that she, her husband and three children have taken with 9-year-old son Gray, who was severely autistic. As a former physical therapist, Rhoni and her husband aggressively sought help in dealing with Gray’s situation. She told of countless attempts to discover, diagnose and make the best choices for Gray.

Time and again, their efforts were fruitless and frustrating.

One of their chief concerns was their ability to communicate with Gray in any form. It was Callier Center for Communication Disorders that helped the Golden family work through it. After experiencing healthcare providers and organizations that seemed to just go through the motions, she realized that they needed professionals who had both a passion to assist and a track record of success. She found that combination at Callier, so much so that she ended up joining the board and becoming an advocate.

Another turning point in the Golden family was the arrival of Hope, an autism service dog. Literally tethered together with Hope, Gray was able to “join the family on community outings so that everyone enjoyed themselves.”

In conclusion, Rhoni admitted that her family was not a happily-ever-after story. But with the pride of a warrior, she told that her family had dinner at a restaurant without a problem recently. In their world that was better than a straight A report card.

Sharon McCullough and Marilyn Augur

Sharon McCullough and Marilyn Augur

Libby Hunt

Libby Hunt

For those in the audience like Honorary Chair Marilyn Augur, Event Chair Tiffany Divis, Ruth and Ken Altshuler, Linda Custard, Sara Martineau, Tucean and David Webb, Leslie Diers, Christie Carter, Mary Clare Finney, Heather Furniss, Nancy Hunt and daughter Libby Allred, Elizabeth Fischer and mom Gail Fischer, Patricia Meadows, Jennifer and Coley Clark, Michal Powell, Wanda Farr and Bert Moore, Rhoni was a hero.

Another hero was attorney Mike McCullough, who graciously accepted the Ruth and Ken Altshuler Callier Care Award. Having been involved with Callier since its inception in 1963, Mike thanked the Altshulers for their countless contributions to the community, the Callier team, his firm and his family.

Ken and Ruth Altshuler and Mike McCullough

Ken and Ruth Altshuler and Mike McCullough

Tom Campbell and Laurence Leonard

Tom Campbell and Laurence Leonard

Another hero was Dr. Laurence Leonard of Purdue University, who received the 2015 Callier Prize for his work with children and was called a “leading scholar and prolific scientist in the study of children with specific language impairment, a language disorder that delays the mastery of language skills in children who have no hearing loss or significant delays in other developmental areas.”

For more photos, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.

MySweetCharity Photo Gallery: Callier Cares Luncheon

Lunches are more interesting when someone quietly emerges as a hero. There are the obvious ones who are well known for their professional contributions that go way over the norm — folks like attorney Mike McCullough and medical types like Dr. Laurence Leonard.

Ken and Ruth Altshuler and Mike McCullough

Ken and Ruth Altshuler and Mike McCullough

Tom Campbell and Laurence Leonard

Tom Campbell and Laurence Leonard

And then there others, who despite being dealt a not-so-wonderful hand of cards manage to rise above the fray. Such a person was discovered at the Callier Cares Luncheon on Thursday, April 30, at Brook Hollow Golf Club.

Story is being completed, but check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery to peruse the peeps who were there.

Round Robin September 27: Bingo Luncheon, Mission Ole And Pegasus Ball

Following Friday night’s TACA RBC Wealth Management Custom Auction and the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America: Dallas, people hardly had time to grab a couple of hours of sleep. Then they had to rise and shine, have a steaming cup of latte and head off to Saturday, September 27’s demands.

DCAC League’s Bingo Luncheon

For those who were suffering from cabin fever due to power outages, there was the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center’s League 13th Annual Bingo Luncheon at Belo Mansion. Proceed from the event help “fund the Family Advocacy, Forensic Interview, Therapy and Education programs at DCAC, as well as the Clothes Closet.”

Mission Ole

Later in the evening the beautiful peeps heard the call of the Trinity River Mission’s Mission Ole. In contrast to years before, when the event took place in private homes like Laurie Sands Harrison’s, Co-Chairs LeeAnne Locken and D’Andra Simmons Lock decided to shift the party venue to One Arts Plaza. Thanks to a spectacular night with stars and strings of lights overhead, it was a perfect time to party out in the driveway.

Pegasus Ball

Barry Corbin

Barry Corbin

Over at the Fairmont, it was Stetsons and bona fide boots for the gents like Barry Corbin and rhinestones and flowing gowns for the gals like Honorary Chair Yvonne Crum and Carolyn Tillery.

Yvonne Crum, Bryant and Carolyn Tillery

Yvonne Crum, Bryant and Carolyn Tillery

The occasion was the Pegasus Ball benefiting the Autism Treatment Center with a record amount of money being raised. The black-tie gala was the final event of the three-day Roundup for Autism that started Thursday in Fort Worth. As Roundup Founder Bobby Norris explained, “Each day, there are more and more families seeking answer, searching for experienced and dedicated therapists to provide early-intervention services and life-long programs that will be there for years to come.”

Founded in 1976, “ATC just purchased its 22nd community-based group home and is currently expanding its Dallas Therapy Clinic. As a parent of an adult daughter with autism and as a board member of ATC, I am proud of our many accomplishments.”

Chocolate Labrador puppy

Chocolate Labrador puppy

But there was an “Oops!” that came to light at the reception. A cute chocolate Labrador puppy was on a leash being walked around the area and being introduced to guests. When contacted, organizers swore that neither the pup nor a quarter horse corralled outside the Regency Ballroom was being auctioned off. However, they did admit that the Lab had been given a “very good home” in exchange for a donation. That was the “Oops!” — that sticky Dallas ordinance that prohibits the use of animals for any form of nonprofit fundraising.

Upon learning of the ordinance, Autism Treatment Center’s Development Director Neil Massey responded, “This has been a good teaching moment for us — to do more due diligence and make sure that what we’re doing isn’t just because we’ve seen others do it, but to make sure we comply with ordinances.” He then added that they would make a donation to a rescue organization.

MySweetCharity Opportunity: Pegasus Ball

According to Pegasus Ball Co-Chair Dawn Neufeld,

Ryan and Dawn Neufeld*

Ryan and Dawn Neufeld*

“As parents of a child with autism, Ryan and I are pleased to lend our passion and energy to the Pegasus Ball to benefit the Autism Treatment Center. Ryan and I have been attending this event for several years, even chairing the Ball in 2012. We invite you to join us at the Pegasus Ball on Saturday, September 27, at The Fairmont Dallas for an evening of fun and entertainment – and raising much needed funds for a wonderful cause.

“Autism is the nation’s leading developmental disorder now affecting 1 in 68 children. Funds raised at the event will support ATC’s programs, including: diagnostic, educational services, adult services, therapy, and residential services. For over 38 years, the Autism Treatment Center has provided life-changing services to families seeking their expertise and experience.

Yvonne Crum (File photo)

Yvonne Crum (File photo)

“The Roundup was founded in 1988 by Bobby Norris, a parent with an adult daughter with autism. This wonderful event has raised over $3 million to provide autism-specific programs and services for children and adults in our community.

“This year’s Event Honorary Chair, Yvonne Crum, is one of Dallas’ most recognizable names. Yvonne has spent many years and innumerable hours dedicated to various charitable causes raising awareness of teenage suicide to children’s theater. Anybody who knows Yvonne knows that when she finds a worthy cause to support, her energy and passion are contagious. Ryan and I are grateful for Yvonne’s friendship and support of a cause dear to our hearts.

“The Pegasus Ball will include a Live and Silent Auction, seated dinner, and live entertainment provided by the band Tenacity are sure to please all attendees. We hope to see you there

“Individual tickets for the Pegasus Ball are $225 or $2,250 for a table of ten. Contact Neil Massey at 972.644.2076 x 104 to make your reservations to join us. For more information, please visit”

* Photo provided by Round Up For Autism

A Couple Of Nice Checks Reward Fundraising Efforts

So the song goes “Money Makes The World Go Round.” Well, even in the summer the dollars are rolling in for Dallas’s world of nonprofits. Here are a couple of “good news” reports that have brightened the day for fundraising efforts:


The Center for BrainHealth’s Think Ahead Group (aka TAG) presented a check for $50,000 for autism research. The funds resulted from TAG’s annual Kentucky Derby Party that was held at the Dallas Arboretum’s DeGolyer Mansion with 300 in attendance. Sponsored by Sewell Automotive Companies, the event was co-chaired by Katie Bivins and Halley Homen.

According to Tandra Allen, who is the lead clinician on the Center’s social cognition project, “With this gift, we will be able to reach those who cannot physically visit the Center for BrainHealth but who can still be positively impacted by this virtual environment. We have seen so many inspiring success stories with those who have completed the 10-session program at the Center, but it has been heartbreaking to have to turn away people due to geographic limitations. Now we will be able to reach many more people of all ages on the autism spectrum.”

Junior League Of Dallas

The Junior League of Dallas once again proved why it’s the stand-out in the world of Junior Leaguers. At the recent Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) conference, JLD received a $2,500 grant to support its “Kids In The Kitchen” program, “Super Foods+Super Fitness=Super Kids.” The program “incorporates federal nutrition guidelines through an eight-week course that teaches children how to prepare easy, nutritious meals, work safely in the kitchen, and incorporate exercise into their daily lives.”

Accepting the award were 2014-2015 JLD President Julie Bagley, 2014-2015 President-Elect Meredith Mosely and 2013-2014 President Laura Johnson.

Underwritten by Kashi, only nine grants were presented for programs promoting “hands-on nutrition and life skills education” at the AJLI’s 92nd Annual Conference in St. Louis.

JUST IN: Dr. Lisa Genova To Be Keynote Speaker At 2014 Meal For The Minds Luncheon

The keynote speaker for Metrocare Services2014 Meal for the Minds Luncheon has just been announced. Focusing on the subject of autism, the speaker will be Dr. Lisa Genova, New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist. In her book, “Love Anthony,” she “invites us into the world of autism through the thoughts of a young boy.”

In addition to having appeared on Dr. Oz, CNN, and Diane Rehm, she was featured in To Not Fade Away, an Emmy Award-winning documentary film on Alzheimer’s.

This year the luncheon and “edible auction” and art sale will take place at the Hilton Anatole on Thursday, September 25. Tickets are $100 with sponsorships starting at $1,200.