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‘It restored our faith in humanity’: Community raises $20K for Floyd County girl’s service dog

Weekday broadcast of WYMT Mountain News at 6
Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 7:29 PM EST
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PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (WYMT) - The Crider family lives in Floyd County, where they have cultivated a community of love and support as they raise their family.

Courtney and Chris Crider have been on a journey with their oldest daughter Etta. Who, now 5 years old, was born with a cleft palate and later diagnosed with autism and two visual impairments. The family has watched her overcome so much, meeting milestones they never expected.

“Her story touches people,” said Courtney. “She is an overcomer.”

In 2019, Etta had her first seizure. An issue that quickly became common.

“It was the scariest morning of our life,” said Courtney. “They started happening about every two months after that and they would get worse and worse.”

Etta began seeing a neurologist who informed her parents that she has a seizure disorder. A mitochondrial syndrome is impacting Etta’s brain, causing “spikes.” Those spikes result in her seizures.

“And we put cameras in and we watched every move. But, still, they were silent almost it. And we couldn’t always catch them the way that we needed to,” said Courtney.

So, the family decided to invest in a service dog that would be able to sense Etta’s seizures before they happen, giving them an extra security measure to keep their daughter safe.

“She doesn’t understand why she feels the way she feels. So, the dog will be able to calm her down and just help her learn and grow even more,” said Courtney.

The dog will also provide comfort to the family in other ways, tethering to Etta and her brother Marshall and helping them as they learn at the Appalachian Valley Autism Center.

The downside was the out of pocket cost the family was looking at to get their daughter a furry companion. However, many people in their communities decided it was an investment they wanted to be a part of.

Businesses and people from Floyd and Fleming County started fundraisers immediately, from photography contests to a GoFundMe, people were searching for any way to be a part of Etta’s story. Floyd County musician and half of Sundy Best, Nicholas Jamerson, popped onto Facebook for an online concert, asking people to support the family.

During the concert he shared his connection to the family, saying he has been friends with Chris since they were young and saw how much work he and his wife put into making sure Etta had the resources needed to thrive.

“My dad and my grandmother used to keep Etta when she was a baby. And, so I saw it. I saw these struggles that they had and it just breaks my heart,” Jamerson said during the live stream.

Chris said seeing the community come together was something that only happens when small-town friends want to see your daughter accomplish big things.

“It’s been very uplifting to see everybody come together,” he said. “In a time whenever it seems like everything’s doom and gloom, to see a little joy- especially when it comes to one of your kids- it’s really humbling.”

Chris, owner of Crider’s Barbershop in Prestonsburg, said it means the world to see small businesses work to support his little family. He said he is proud to live in a community where he can be a part of that change, which is why his business is marketed as an autism-friendly space. He said everything his family does is about supporting others in the community who have differently-abled kids and need a place to feel safe.

“A lot of times, with special needs parents, having an outlet to just be able to talk and check on each other, it’s really a blessing,” he said. “Because they take up a lot of time, but they’re worth every minute of it.”

The Criders said seeing their neighbors care enough to help Etta get the help she needs is overwhelming, especially since they were able to raise more than $20,000 needed to get the service dog for Etta.

Now, the family waits for Etta to meet her four-legged companion, thanks to the compassion of those who love her.

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