Family of autistic boy raises money for service dog

For may of us, our dogs are members of the family. But for one family in Tomahawk, their four legged friend could literally save their lives.

It's been a rough couple of years for the Bailey family. Stacey and Steve Bailey are the parents of quadruplets. When the quads were just two years old, they noticed their son John William wasn't developing like the other kids. Not long after, he was diagnosed with autism. Since then, keeping John William safe has been a daily struggle.

"John William is extremely bright. He's a sweet boy, but he understands no boundaries," Stacy says. "He'll walk in people's houses. He'll leave the house and cross streets without looking to see if there is a bus coming. If there is something that catches his eye, he just goes to it without understanding the danger of what that might entail."

Three days ago, John William wandered away from his home. Within five minutes he was blocks away playing in the water at a dam.

"When John William gets out, people respond all over the neighborhood," Steve tells NewsChannel 7 adding, "They're out on quads. Local kids are on bicycles looking for him. Really, really amazing."

Still, the Bailey's say their vigilance just isn't enough.

"It's an ongoing battle with John since he's such a smart kid," Steve explains. "We've got locks and alarms and he figures those out and I don't know what's next. He could be climbing out windows next. I've got the handles off the windows. It's an escalating thing with since he's such a smart kid."

That's why the family is desperately trying to raise funds to purchase a service dog. Cherry is a lab-golden mix being trained by Service Dogs for Independence in Arizona.

"We're hoping Cherry can be his friend and grow up with him and keep him safe," Stacy shares.

Cherry will be John William's constant companion, keeping him from wondering off and, if he does, alerting the Bailey's, assisting them by tracking John William's sent.

"We see videos of her and he says 'Is that my Cherry?' He's just very excited to see her," Stacy says of her son.

Mom and dad are also very excited, especially since Stacy was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson's.

"When he elopes, wonders, I don't sleep well," Stacy tells us. "My tremors are worse. I am stiffer. It's harder for me function on a day to day basis because the stress level makes everything worse."

But with Cherry's help, she's hoping she'll finally get some relief.

"It's been pretty much an avalanche of bad things for awhile," Stacy sighs. "So we're looking forward to having Cherry and having some positive experiences in our lives."

Right now, Cherry is still training. The Bailey's hope to bring her home sometime next spring. But before they do they have to raise the remaining $10,000. If you want to help, a raffle has been set up for Saturday, August 10th at A&J's Sports Bar in Tomahawk. You can also donate directly to the family by going to and searching John William.

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