Tri-Cities teen raising money for seizure alert dog, community rallying support

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A Jonesborough teenager is in desperate need of a seizure alert dog. 14-year-old Kayla Gergich was diagnosed with band heterotopia, a genetic birth defect, at only four years old. 

She now suffers from three to five seizures every day. 

For the Gergich family, the past few years have been tough. 

“You never have a child and think something will be wrong with your child. You want the moon and the stars for your child, you want everything for them,” says Susan Gergich, Kayla’s mother. 

The Gergich family is now raising money to be able to get Kayla a seizure alert dog, something that will keep her safe and help her gain independence.

“Even though it’s an animal it’s an extra set of eyes looking out for her and her best interests,” says Susan. “When you’re 14 you want some independence and to be able to do things on your own.” 

The dog will be able to alert Kayla and those around her when she is about to have a seizure. 

“They will use the clothing that she wore while she’s having a seizure to start training that dog. When you have a seizure there is an odor like a pheromone that you emit that we can’t detect, but the dog will be able to detect. That’s how they will train the dog,” says Susan. 

The Gergich family needs to raise 17,000 dollars for Kayla’s alert dog. 

Thanks to the support of the community, they are already a third of the way to their goal. 

“It makes the struggles so much easier when the community is behind you and supporting you,” says Susan.

Local schools and several businesses are helping Kayla raise money through a 60 day shoe drive, running through November 30. They ask for donations of lightly used shoes, which will be purchased by a company, giving a percentage to the Gergich family. 

They have a goal of 500 bags of shoes. 

“It’s something everybody has, extra shoes laying around that they don’t wear, they’re collecting dust, that they can donate,” says Susan. 

The family took to Facebook needing drop-off locations for the shoe drive. Texas Roadhouse in Johnson City is one of the many businesses that stepped up to the plate. 

“We decided to help her out in the hopes of getting her her service dog very very shortly,” says Rikki Oliver, a manager at the restaurant. 

The restaurant will also host a percentage night for Kayla on October 15th.

Kayla’s family has a long road ahead. They say it will likely be three years before she is able to get her alert dog after all the money is raised. 

Still, they remain grateful every step of the way.

“I just want her to be accepted in the world just like we are, but also just to have more independence and be able to do things a lot of families take for granted,” says Susan. 

If you would like to donate shoes for Kayla’s shoe drive you can drop them off at the following locations:

  • Fanatics 101- 2011 N. Roan Street, Johnson City, TN 37601
  • Fleet Feet- 302 Buffalo Street Suite 100, Johnson City, TN 37604
  • Texas Roadhouse- 1808 N. Roan Street, Johnson City, TN 37601
  • Texas Roadhouse- 1221 East Stone Dr, Kingsport, TN 37660
  • Zaxby’s- 2111 N. Roan Street, Johnson City, TN 37601
  • Gouge Homes- 905 Chase Drive Suite 110, Johnson City, TN 37601
  • Lady Fit Studio- 3317 Wayfield Dr. Unit 3, Johnson City, TN 37601
  • The Arc of Washington County- 110 E. Mountcastle Dr., Johnson City, TN 37601
  • Clayton Homes- 2901 E. Stone Dr., Kingsport, TN 37660

Monetary donations for Kayla can be made online through 4 Paws For Ability. 

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