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Helping hands support a family's wish

Turbo and Luke

Turbo enjoys spending time with his best friend on the bus, at the beach and at home. But Turbo is no ordinary dog.

Turbo was specially trained to meet the specific needs of a child and a family. His charge is Luke, a 13 year old who is autistic, has a developmental delay, suffers from epilepsy and is non-verbal. The family became interested in obtaining a dog after learning the potential impact a furry friend could have on their son.

“Early in 2008, we visited a friend who had a dog from 4 Paws. We were amazed when soon after arriving, Luke started to interact with the dog by snuggling into it—a reaction we had never seen before,” reflects Maria Burr, the boy’s mother. 4 Paws for Ability is a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting children with a variety of disabilities with service animals.

“We made contact with 4 Paws in America and found out that the only way we could obtain a dog for Luke was to fundraise,” Burr says.

Luckily, the community was behind them.

“I think the fact that autism had been in the news quite a bit at the time and also that Kiwanis (clubs) are there to support children, we felt it an ideal cause to pursue,” says Diane Hodgson, secretary of the Morrinsville, New Zealand, Kiwanis Club.

Funds from the club’s Easter Raffle combined with those from the local Lions, Rotary, Fitness Centre and other organizations helped the family obtain a dog in two years.

First trained in the United States before making the final journey to New Zealand for further instruction, Turbo soon proved to be an asset to his new family. He tracks Luke if he wanders away from home, follows him to school on the bus and protects him from climbing fences or going too deeply into the ocean.

“Turbo is a good companion to Luke and is much loved by every member of our family,” Burr says. –Courtney Meyer

Have a Kiwanis story to share? Send it to for consideration.

Has your community ever banded together to help a family? Tell us what happened in the comment section below.

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