How to help
To donate to the GoFundMe account to benefit Blake Chastain, visit here.
The young bowlers of the Northeast Georgia Youth Bowling League normally spend this time of year practicing for upcoming competitions and raising money to pay for the trips.
But when this year’s fundraising period began, they had a different cause in mind.
In just a few weeks, the kids and their parents raised $2,000 to help Blake Chastain, a local 6-year-old with a multitude of special needs, purchase a much-needed service dog.
“We just wanted to show that we’re here and doing things for the community to give back,” said Beth Kinsey, a 15-year-old member of the Youth League.
When the Youth League’s president, Misty Kinsey, presented the idea to the kids, they were pretty enthusiastic.
“They were really gung-ho for it,” she said.
The Youth League took up donations on League Nights at Gainesville Bowl on Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville and sold raffle tickets. In just a few weeks, the members raised $2,000.
“I think $2,000 is pretty good for a bunch of little kids,” Misty Kinsey said.
The cause wasn’t a random selection. Blake is the grandnephew of the Youth Bowling League’s secretary, Jill Avery.
“This was just something we wanted to do the help her out,” Misty Kinsey said.
Blake has been diagnosed with autism, epilepsy, sensory processing disorder, Duane’s syndrome and a developmental delay, among other issues.
His mother, Casey Chastain, said a service dog would help her son feel more like a normal kid.
“For (Blake), going outside is one of his favorite things, but you can’t just let him go,” Chastain said. “Somebody has to be with him the whole time.”
A service dog could accompany Blake outside and inside his home, one of the few places the Chastains can let him play without constant supervision. The only difficulty comes when he has a seizure, which happens often.
“If he’s in his room playing and he has a seizure, he could have something in his mouth — we’ve had that happen, and it’s a big ordeal,” Casey Chastain said. “A service dog could actually alert us before it happens.”
Ultimately a service dog would free Blake from the need for constant supervision as he gets older.
“It’s just letting him have that little bit of freedom that normal 6-year-olds have,” Casey Chastain said.
While there’s a standard two-year waiting list for service animals, Blake was approved in just four months, leaving his family little time to come up with the $10,000 needed.
The Chastains are purchasing the dog from a North Carolina company that will fully train the animal before it comes to stay with them.
In addition to the check the Youth League presented to the Chastains, it raised a little over $800 on GoFundMe.
The Youth League plans to keep fundraising for Blake. A bank account at United Community Bank has been set up to accept donations.
While they may have to look elsewhere to fund their trips to upcoming competitions, bowling league members don’t seem to regret their decision in the slightest.
“(Blake Chastain) needs the service dog,” said Amy King, a 14-year-old member of the Youth League. “He really does need one.”