ELKTON, Md. - Thirty-nine swimmers joined Alison Meehan in a pool in Annapolis at 6 a.m. Friday. An anonymous donor heard about Nate Meehan, who lives 80 miles away.
The generosity allowed five-year-old Nate Meehan's parents to reach their fundraising goal.
"I couldn't believe my eyes, the people who showed up. The support was just overwhelming," said Alison Meehan.
Nate Meehan was diagnosed with autism. He doesn't sit still for very long. He's given his parents several scares, as he runs out of the house.
Alison and Ted Meehan are exhausted. But soon, they will throw some of the parenting to the dog.
"The dog is gonna not allow him to run out in the street. The dog is gonna stop. Also, dogs help with socialization," said Meehan. "The dog helps with communication, eye contact, and sleep."
Guide dogs are trained to help autistic children gain independence and confidence. Through "Autism Service Dogs of America," the dogs are trained in Oregon and then handed over to children.
But they're not cheap. With the support of the community, the Meehans raised $13,500.
"It's just amazing how generous people are and how I don't know if it's the dog or the kid but they want to help," said Meehan.
They are the first Maryland family to use the organization. We first met them 18 days ago. Alison predicted it would take two years to raise the money, but it took just 4 months.
Several fundraisers capped off by an anonymous donation that raised $3,100 with one swim practice.
"I think just having this dog people say oh you know we understand now there's something wrong. And I'm hoping I get smiles instead of dirty looks," said Meehan.
The Meehans have other fundraisers planned. The money will help them travel to Oregon to bring the dog back home.
Now that the money has been raised, "Autism Service Dogs of America" will select a dog and begin the training. The dog will be introduced to Nate and his family in about a year.