The Punchline

A sailor, a preacher, a nurse and a single mom walking into a puppy mill funded by Pepsi….

Oh, I forgot…

This isn’t a joke.

If you are interested, the actual lawsuit filed against Lea Kaydus dba Animals For Autism (aka Siberian Snow Babies) by the Illinois Attorney General can be read in it’s entirety HERE.

How am I feeling about this?

I don’t know.

At the end of the day, Lea Kaydus gets to keep her puppy mill that she built with the $50,000 from the Pepsi Refresh Grant.

You remember the grant, right? The one that was supposed to go toward the training fees of 10 service dogs. The grant that was changed AFTER the voting was complete to fund tangible goods like a puppy mill.

A puppy mill, funded by Pepsi, won by exploiting special needs children.

No jokes here.

Animals For Autism – finally

Approximately 18 months ago, my family thought we had found something that would help our daughter. A service dog from Animals For Autism. Instead what happened was 18 months of stress, anxiety, sadness, and even fear.

Our family and many others were pulled into a scam. A scam orchestrated by a woman, Lea Kaydus, against special needs children. I’m not going to go over every step of the scam in this post, but if you are interested, the chronological postings of what we went through can be found HERE.

Our family, along with almost all the families that we know of, attempted to bring what Animals For Autism was doing to light. We told anyone who would listen. Media, Blogs, the Attorney General and of course, Pepsi and Global Giving.

Oh, how we tried to tell Global Giving.

We presented our facts over and over.

We were brushed off. Ignored. Told that we were wrong. Told that Global Giving and Pepsi were honored to work with Lea Kaydus. Told that we just had a personal issue against her. Told that we just needed to sit down and shut up.

Told that Global Giving stood behind Animals For Autism and Lea Kaydus 100%. That they were happy with how Lea Kaydus had spent the $50,000 they gave to her. That since she “fulfilled the spirit of the grant to the best of her ability”, they felt it was all sunshine and bunnies.

Funny thing is…

When the Attorney General of Illinois saw the exact same facts that were presented to Global Giving, not only were they concerned, they were concerned enough to issue the following press release today:

__________________________________________________

For Immediate Release Media Contact: Maura Possley 

August 23, 2012 312-814-3118 

mpossley@atg.state.il.us 

Follow OAG on: 

@ILAttyGeneral 

MADIGAN SUES ‘ANIMALS FOR AUSTISM’ CHARITY FOR FRAUD 

Attorney General: Proposed Judgment to Require Downstate Woman to Reimburse Families Waiting for Service Dogs 

Springfield – Attorney General Lisa Madigan today filed a lawsuit and a proposed consent judgment against a downstate woman who cheated families across the country out of thousands of dollars in payments for service dogs to assist children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

Madigan filed her lawsuit in Sangamon County Circuit Court against Glenarm resident Lea Kaydus and her organization, Animals for Autism. The lawsuit alleges that for more than a year, Kaydus solicited donations and payments from families in Illinois and around the country to match them with specially trained dogs to serve as companions for their children. To date, Madigan said, none of the families who paid for the service has received a trained dog as promised by Kaydus. 

Madigan’s lawsuit states that Kaydus’ Animals for Autism advertised it would specially train Alaskan Klee Kai and Siberian Huskies for $3,000 to $8,000 and then pair the dogs with families to assist their children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder. Kaydus promised families that they initially would be introduced to their dog in person or via teleconference calls and then would receive frequent updates until the dogs were trained and ready to be placed in families’ homes. 

Families in Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Florida, California and Washington sent payments to Kaydus and were led to believe over the course of several months that Kaydus was training dogs to place in their homes. In some cases, families received pictures of puppies, though those images were taken years earlier and depicted dogs that weren’t involved in Kaydus’ supposed training program. One family received a photo of a puppy that was purportedly born in 2011, though Madigan’s investigation revealed the picture was actually taken in 2007. 

Madigan said Kaydus has collected at least $5,190 from families in the scheme. The lawsuit alleges numerous violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act and Solicitation for Charity Act against Kaydus and her organization. The proposed consent judgment filed with Madigan’s lawsuit would require that Kaydus provide restitution to affected families. 

Assistant Attorney General Melodi Green handled this case for Madigan’s Consumer Fraud Bureau. 

______________________________________________________

If you think in terms of win/lose, I think this is classified as a win.

But it feels very much like a lose. We lost 18 months. We lost our innocence. We lost our trust. We simply lost.

Thirteen families will never be the same.

Thirteen children were taken advantage of.

And not a single “I’m sorry.”

Pepsi and Global Giving, are you still honored to work with Lea Kaydus?

Chicago Tribune update story

WICS Top Story video

That explains it

Dudes.

No freaken wonder I am so tired.

This is a snippet of Faith’s electronic sleep log. And this is only the times I remembered to hit the “wake” and “sleep” buttons.

This has been going on for years.

And this is the hard copy that we will be keeping for two weeks. It goes to the Sleep Disorder Program. The shaded area is when she was asleep. The non-shaded is when she (we) was awake.

Mom is tired.

Still not the same

When I was growing up, the 4th of July was the holiday. We had BBQ’s, friends, family, pools, drinking adults, unsupervised kids, the lake, and fireworks. Oh the fireworks! The bigger, louder, brighter the better! We lived near a Native American Reservation. Do you know what that meant? Not only did we have fireworks, but we had illegal fireworks and lots of them. None of that “Safe and Sane” crap for our Fourth. We had the kind of fireworks that could blow your hand off. If by some chance we ran out of fireworks, we made our own out of gunpowder and aluminum foil. What? You mean you didn’t? I couldn’t wait to recreate these fun times with my own family.

(Hmmm, now that I’m looking back on this, maybe all that wasn’t such a great idea)

Fast forward 30 years and I am now a mommy to a special needs child. She does not like any bright lights or loud noises. Crowds and “different” foods are triggers of a meltdown. She doesn’t even like being outside for very long. The last time we celebrated the 4th of July was right after she was born, before her aversion to all the above became so apparent.

Our current celebration consists of BBQing at home and sending the older children to various places where they have a chance of seeing fireworks. We try to put Faith to bed early before the loudest BOOM‘s start so she does not get overwhelmed. Then hubby and I sit on our porch and hope for glimpses of other families fireworks.

How have your holiday celebrations changed from what you remember as a child? Any holiday at all. What do you do differently?

She’s an American Girl

So, tomorrow is Faith’s birthday.

She will be 9.

Yowza.

Like most little girls, Faith has been excitedly counting down to this magical day.

Unlike most little girls, Faith has special needs.

Birthday parties are a dicey thing for us. Heck, outings are a dicey thing for us.

Last week, the neighbor girls went to the holy grail of girly-girliness: The American Girl Store.

I had no idea there was an American Girl Store right here in Seattle. Did you know that? Did you know that the American Girl Store does birthday parties? I didn’t.

Now, regular followers of my blog may be a bit confused right now. Wondering WHY this matters. Faith is about as far from a girly-girl as a girl can get.

Captain America? Superman? Mario? Firetrucks? Transformers? Yes.

Tea parties? Tiaras? Princesses? No.

But….there is no one peg that fits here. Faith has spent years flipping through the American Girl catalogs. Pointing to each doll and asking about it. Noting which ones are similar to her and which ones are similar to someone she knows. The “Almost American Girl” dolls in other stores have not interested her in the least. It has just been the American Girl dolls.

So…. once I realized there was an actual American Girl Store nearby, a tiny inkling of an idea started to form.

Have you ever been to an American Girl Store? It is a sea of pink and red filled to the brim with squealing girls.

What if…somehow…by some miracle….I could figure out a way to take Faith to the American Girl Store for her birthday?

Crazy? Probably. But I figured the least I could do was talk to someone and see what kind of accommodations could be made. The following is my emails with Anna. Anna is amazing and needs a raise. And a bonus. And a vacation. :)

“Hi Anna,

I am hoping to arrange a visit to the Seattle American Girl Store for my daughter, Faith’s 9th birthday. Faith is developmentally and physically disabled. For three years she has flipped through American Girl catalogs, asking about the different dolls. This year I think we are possibly able to make the trip to the store. This will be her (and my) first experience and I am wondering if there are any accommodations that can be made to help her have an enjoyable experience.

A bit about Faith…. She survived a stroke as a baby. She has a hard time physically walking. She can walk but tires easily. She can manage most of the day without her wheelchair, but if the store will involve quite a bit of walking, we may need it. She also has autism. She becomes very easily overwhelmed by too much stimuli. I am wondering if it is possible to have a small selection dolls in a small area for her to “shop” from rather than have the possibly overwhelming experience of the entire store? What time of the day is the store the quietest? 

We would also like to celebrate her “party” at the Bistro, with the goodies (cake, ice cream, tiara) but it would just be her and us (Mom and Dad). Is it possible to have a birthday party without the “party” part? 

I am a special needs blogger and I would also love to chronicle how this goes in a blog post to share with other parents. Knowing what accommodations can be made at a particular store/event is a huge help for those of us who need a bit extra help with our children.”

Anna wrote back almost instantly.

“Hi Allison,

I would love to meet with you and Faith, and I’d be more than happy to customize her visit so she can have an amazing experience!

Our store is usually the quietest during the week in the morning and early afternoon. We will begin to be busier as summer break approaches, but weekdays are often much quieter than weekends. Our store is all one level, and very accessible, so Faith would be able to enjoy everything, including the bistro and doll hair salon, while visiting in a wheelchair so she could be the most comfortable.

I’d be happy to select some dolls and outfits for Faith beforehand, and then meet with her to help her go through choices. If you can tell me which doll(s) she’s excited about, or if she’d like to find a doll that looks like her, I’d be happy to bring a selection of dolls to her to help make choosing easier.

I can also help with creating a selection of outfits and accessories too. If you can tell me a little bit about Faith, her interests, hobbies, favorite colors, what style clothes she likes, I can create a customized shopping experience with outfits and accessories she’ll love! 

You can absolutely have a birthday party for three! The Bistro Birthday Celebration includes a drink, appetizer, main course and special cake and ice cream for dessert, with a goody bag for girls. The cost is $28 per girl and $18 per adult. If you have a date in mind for visiting, I’d be happy to check on reservations in our bistro!

And you’re more than welcome to take photos to remember the experience, or ask any questions that we can help answer! I’m looking forward to meeting with you and Faith!”

This was starting to feel like something we could actually do! The American Girl Store was very willing to help come up with accommodations to help Faith enjoy her American Girl experience to the fullest even with the additional challenges. Anna called me so we could speak in more detail about what we could do to help Faith. Anna was patient and full of ideas. She also went well out of her way to not only check the Bistro’s menu for Faith’s allergens, but she also ensured that they would have Faith’s favored ice cream on hand.

Wow.

Here are the photo’s from an amazingly magical day.

Faith and I on the ferry. This was before she understood where we were going.

As we wheeled into the American Girl Store, Faith exclaimed “Mommy, there is DOLLIES here!”
Anna helped Faith get settled on a bench away from the main flow of store traffic.
Anna then brought out 4 dolls for Faith to choose from. She showed her each doll in a slow, calm manner. She opened each box and took them out so Faith could really look at them.
Oh this one. I love her. She is my very own dolly!
Next up, Anna slowly showed Faith accessories for her Dolly. Each item was unboxed and Faith was allowed to touch.
Including a chocolate lab!
Anna helped get Faith's dolly dressed up. :)
Next, Anna helped us with an appointment at the American Girl Salon. Faith supervised intently. LOL
After dolly's hair was finished, Anna escorted us to the Bistro. Dolly was settled into her own seat. Faith thought that was amazing! On the table was a birthday card for Faith from the American Girl Staff and a tiara.
Prior to being served, the staff double checked with us about Faith's allergies. Faith chose Mac and Cheese. She deemed it yummy!

Surprise! Faith was quite perplexed as to why all these people were singing to her! She blew out all the candles in one try.
"It's my Berf-day!" The cake was simply divine. Fit for a princess, or a superhero. Or even a superhero princess transformer.
The day was a success. Not only a success, but an "I had such an amazing time that I fell asleep in the car which I never do sitting beside my new bestest friend in the whole wide world" success. And I'm pretty sure that is the best kind.

If you have ever considered a trip to the American Girl Store, but have hesitated due to special needs, please email them. I can not stress enough how accommodating the entire staff was. Every person we came in contact with was so helpful, patient and understanding.

Thank you American Girl Store for helping to make a little girls wish come true.

Another (no)update – Pepsi Pups

Are you here looking for the latest on the Pepsi Pups? (All previous posts are here)

An update?

Keep looking.

Even the Chicago Tribune ran a No-Update Update on this whole mess.

Once again, Lea Kaydus, the founder of Animals For Autism (who is an individual and not an organization…..) is gone.

Global Giving is not giving any updates.

Pepsi, well we have already established that Pepsi doesn’t care.

Out of the original 13 families, not a single one I was able to contact has heard ANYTHING. Even though they have been calling, and emailing and ASKING for information.

Why the silence?

I would think that if the grantee is on schedule with her expected completion date, someone would be shouting that from the rooftops.

What is the secret?

Besides the fact that the grant period ended March 31st.

And I have not heard of a single well-trained service dog being delivered by Lea Kaydus.

I have heard of a very poorly trained dog being delivered to a family that was not part of the Pepsi Pups. That dog was so unsocialized and poorly trained that the family was forced to abandon all hope of using that particular dog and have had to start back with another service dog organization.

So………have you heard anything? Because the families the $50,000 grant was supposed to benefit have not.

And I know you are reading my blog.

Water towers and off days.

I admit it.

I’m having an off day (week, month…). Things seem much harder than they really are. I have no energy to be creative or even friendly. I would actually just like to stay in my yoga pants, curl on the couch and watch a marathon of An Idiot Abroad.

Where am I going with this? Nowhere.

Like I said, I’m having an off day (week, month…)

I just spotted something on Facebook that brought back a flood of bittersweet memories.

Two words.

Water Tower.

Many moons ago, we lived in the tiny town of Smithfield VA. Known for Ham, History and Hospitality. (…and for the reek of the slaughter houses a few miles up the road….but you didn’t hear that from me.)

The two years we lived there were pretty darn rough. Hubby was deployed most of the time and Faith was sick quite a bit. Not like “cough, cough” sick. I mean “first name basis with the PICU nurses, inpatient for weeks at a time” sick.

It was also during this two year stretch that Faith was diagnosed with autism.

With 6 years between now and that moment….

…..the time standing still, I know she’s a little quirky, and for the most part only repeats lines from TV, and spends a lot of time flapping her hands and rocking, vomits when she touches anything with the texture of yogurt, and she poo paints, a lot, but what the heck do you mean she has autism moment?

Anyway, looking back, I can finally see some humor in our time in Smithfield.

Faith has had some pretty interesting obsessions over the years. Some memorable ones have been a spatula, a bar of soap and water towers.

Oh she loved water towers. Any size, any shape. Water towers were the highlight of her day. Luckily we had one right by our house.

When she would spot a tower, she would begin flapping her hands and making “Eeeeeeeee! Eeeeeeeee!” sounds. She would smile so huge that you couldn’t help but smile with her. She was 3. She had almost no communicative speech. But she could make everyone in the car with her laugh at how excited water towers made her.

During the time we lived in VA, we became water tower experts. We could plan a trip anywhere in area making sure we passed at least 3 towers each way.

Anyway….

The time we lived there I was miserable, depressed and always felt like a black cloud hung over my head. I was so happy to leave Virginia. I just plain did not want to ever look back on our time there.

Yet today I did. When I spotted the words “water tower” on Facebook.

Not only did I look back, I looked back and felt a flood of good memories.

The girl, she loved those towers. And she was so damn cute when she spotted one.

So maybe, just maybe, at some point in the future I will look back on this time fondly also.

It feels awkward so….

…I am only going to mention this a couple of times.

We have created a ChipIn account to help with the travel expenses we will incur while training with Faith’s service dog.

We will be traveling, probably by plane, to Ohio. We will then need to stay in a hotel for two weeks while we  train with Faith’s new canine partner and learn to work together as a team.

I will have a little widget thingy on the side bar of Mommy Rambles….scroll down a bit to see it.

You can also access the page directly through this link:

4 Paws 4 Faith Chip In Page

Thank you.