Area family works to raise funds to purchase service dog for two-year-old son

Two-year-old Hunter McGarvey lives in Altoona with his parents, Nicole and Joe McGarvey.
The family is currently in the process of purchasing a dog for Hunter.
While this may sound like an everyday occurrence, the McGarveys are not purchasing just any dog.
Hunter suffers from a condition known as hydrocephalus, which means there is extra fluid surrounding his brain. This condition is often referred to as “water on the brain”, however, the “water” is actually cerebrospinal fluid.
Each year approximately 4,000 infants in the United States are born with hydrocephalus, and an estimated 6,000 children develop hydrocephalus during the first two years of life.
Hunter’s condition causes him to have seizures. According to his mother, at one time, Hunter has suffered from 20 seizures in a two week period. She said his longest seizure lasted 45 minutes.
McGarvey said it’s hard for the family at times and she expects it will only get worse as Hunter gets older.
Because of his seizures, Hunter can’t be left alone. He’s only two-years-old right now, but McGarvey said as he gets older, he is going to want to be more independent.
“You want your children to be as independent as you are,” said McGarvey.
Eventually, the McGarvey family learned of an organization called 4 Paws for Ability.
At 4 Paws, dogs receive special training to help detect seizures. Dogs can often detect chemical imbalances up to 20 minutes before a seizure occurs.
McGarvey feels having a dog around will help Hunter gain independence as he grows.
“He’ll be able to go out to the yard and play without me (or another adult) always having to be right with him,” said McGarvey. “Children are able to adapt to having a dog around.”
The McGarvey family was accepted into the 4 Paws program, which is when their fund raising efforts began. The cost to get a dog is $8,800. This money goes towards training the dogs.
So far the family, with help, have raised just shy of $3,000.
Bellwood Brownie Troop 461 helped the McGarvey family with a raffle drawing. They pulled the winning raffle tickets and also donated Girl Scout Cookies to be placed with the baskets.
Gift baskets were collected to be raffled off. The various baskets included a large variety of items such as food gift certificates.
The McGarveys are also selling Hershey’s candy bars and MTO tickets.
Last month, a bowl-a-thon was held at Splinter’s Lanes to help raise money.
McGarvey also wanted to express her thanks to the Tyrone Area Community Organization (TACO). She said the organization heard of her family’s situation and donated $200 to put towards their goal.
“We’re really grateful for their help. This group in Tyrone heard about our situation and they said they wanted to help us out. We really appreciate that.”
McGarvey said she is trying to do what she can to help make her son’s life as comfortable as she can.
“Hunter is going to have to deal with this the rest of his life,” she explained, “I just want him to be as independent as possible.”
According to McGarvey, 4 Paws is not just for children. She said a lot of people can benefit from the program.
4 Paws for Ability states its mission is to “enrich the lives of people with disabilities by training and placing service animals to provide them with companionship and promote independent living.”
The program specializes in placements with people who are turned away by many other agencies.
Parents trying to find service dogs for their children often discover that many agencies will not place service dogs with children.
According to the 4 Paws website, “We believe service dogs should be made available to anyone with a disability who wishes to have the love, companionship, and independence that are the result of dog service dog placement”.
The goal of 4 Paws is to “provide as many people as possible, within the scope of our ability to serve, and with disabilities falling under the definition of such in the Americans With Disability Act (1990) with access to a qualified service animal trained specifically for their needs, regardless of age and severity of disability. Also, to reduce the number of unwanted animals who would otherwise be destroyed by obtaining the majority of our animals from shelters and rescue groups. And finally, to increase public awareness of the laws regarding service animals and the value they provide their owners.”
Anyone interested in learning more about 4 Paws for Ability can visit the website at