#GivingTuesdayNWO – A Donor Story: The Yoders
Receiving news their young son had a brain tumor never stopped the Yoder family from living a full life. There were many challenges in Tyler’s ability to communicate, as well as his ability to balance himself while walking. The family never quit searching for ways in which to make Tyler’s life easier and more fulfilling. When Tyler was a senior in high school, while shopping at the mall with his dad, a stranger approached the boy using a wheelchair and asked if he knew about Assistance Dogs. That stranger was, and still is, an ADAI staff member.
After researching the organization and filling out the application, they soon welcomed a golden retriever named Duke into their home and into Tyler’s heart. Duke was all business and during his life he taught Tyler many things, including how to work with a service dog to be more independent and self-reliant. With Duke’s help and a specially fitted harness, Tyler was able to get out of his wheelchair and walk. And walk they did, working at a job in a mailroom delivering packages and mail at a local business where he interacted with many people each day. Tyler is a sports fanatic, and the family walked into many sports venues where they could watch baseball and football games. Traveling extensively with the Yoder family, Duke opened so many doors and helped blaze a trail as an ambassador for Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence (ADAI), spreading the word about service dogs and what they can do to help not only with tasks, but in tearing down social barriers.
When Duke’s life came to an end, the Yoder family wondered how Tyler would survive this loss. Working again with ADAI, the right dog at the right moment came into Tyler’s life; this time his name was Tucker. Where Duke was all business, Tucker was more approachable and injected a sense of fun into everything that the family did. He not only helped Tyler stay mobile, working at his job and traveling, but together, they were now the center of a wide social circle. With the progression of some of Tyler’s physical challenges, Tucker kept him moving and continued all the things that Duke had started. As Tyler’s activities evolved, so did ADAI and in the fall of 2011, a merger was created with The Ability Center of Greater Toledo. Both organizations carried a single mission forward: to help create independence in any way possible for people who have a disability. Through this new partnership, when Tucker’s life came to an end in September 2015, Tyler was then able to receive his newest partner, a Golden Retriever named Brady. Though much of Tyler’s physical activities have diminished, his dreams have not and Brady remains his constant companion. Now 36 years old, Tyler’s dream is to visit every Major League baseball field in the United States and he is well on his way toward achieving that goal.
Jenni Yoder, Tyler’s mom, says, “Receiving an assistance dog was a “win-win” situation for Assistance Dogs awareness,” as the Yoders were socially active and could help spread the word about ADAI’s program. She said there were good vibes right away and there were so many possibilities, yet so much isolation because people were not aware of the program. At the time, it was a small, rural organization that could be so much more. The Yoders like that there is a broad base of people served by The Ability Center, and that everyone is viewed as an individual. They said they are continually amazed by the matching process that occurs between the dog and the consumer. Jenni goes on to say, “ADAI and The Ability Center have been such an important part of our family; this organization changed my son’s life. I really don’t know if Tyler would still be with us if he hadn’t had the love of Duke, Tucker, and now Brady. The dogs have been the bridge for everyone who has come into his life.” To put it in his own words, Tyler says, “Without a dog, I am invisible. With each of my companions, people can start to see the real me.”
When asked how they describe The Ability Center to others, Jenni said she is the biggest cheerleader because ADAI has been “such a healing thing.” It is rare that they go anywhere where someone does not ask about the dog. Their dog is “a constant positive.” The Yoders are self-proclaimed Facebook addicts and state, “We have nothing NOT to talk about. A dog can enhance the things we as parents offer — pure love, pure acceptance, and self-assurance.”
The Yoders wish other people in the community knew how easy the process is and how unintimidating it is to reach out to ACT. They said there is always someone who welcomes you, assists you, gathers information on your needs, and you leave feeling better than you did when you arrived. There is something for everyone, whether it’s an equipment loan, referral, ramp, or dog – a one-stop shop.
The Yoders can never see their future without being part of The Ability Center family. Our mission at The Ability Center is to help people regain what they have lost through the challenges associated with their disabilities. We know that Tyler’s story can help to inspire people to see what is possible. In this season of giving, we hope you will help us to continue to fuel that mission of hope for all people.