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School to hold fundraisers to purchase service dog for student with brain condition

DEVILS LAKE--Some Devils Lake schools are working to ease the life of a third-grade student with a brain condition. A charity ball entitled "Making Alyvia's Dreams Pawsible" Dec. 21 will support the cost of a service dog for Alyvia Church, who ha...

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Alyvia Church sits at her desk at Prairie View elementary in Devils Lake Thursday afternoon. Devils Lake schools are holding their annual charity ball for a Church who has hydrocephalus and experiences seizures. The money will go toward a service dog. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald

DEVILS LAKE-Some Devils Lake schools are working to ease the life of a third-grade student with a brain condition.

A charity ball entitled "Making Alyvia's Dreams Pawsible" Dec. 21 will support the cost of a service dog for Alyvia Church, who has excess fluid build-up in her brain from hydrocephalus.

Church also experiences seizures when sleeping, sometimes causing her body to shut down at night, and this has required her parents' constant vigilance, her mother Bobbi Jo Church said. She often must sleep by her daughter or constantly wake up to check a monitor, and as Alyvia grows older, both parents want her to have more independence, she said.

A service dog would notify Alyvia's parents and others if she has a seizure, as well as allow her freedom at other times, she said.

"She deserves to be able to do some of the same the things normal kids do," she said. "Because if we don't catch a seizure, I worry every time she goes to bed that we'll wake up and find her dead."

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Each year, a charity ball organized by Central Middle School supports a student or staff member in need, school counselor and organizer Kensi Wateland said. This year, it will feature a basketball game between middle and high school staff, as well as a silent auction and bake sale.

"We're just humbled and honored," Church said. "We didn't really expect this type of support. It was kind of overwhelming."

Problems early on

Alyvia had health complications related to her premature birth, including brain bleeding and possible stroke, her mother said.

The bleeding led to hydrocephalus, an acquired brain injury and later epilepsy, and some of her seizures have required emergency intervention, Church said. Their family moved from Rolette, N.D., to Devils Lake a year and a half ago to live closer to an emergency room, she added.

"(Before), we were meeting the paramedics en route," she said.

Funding from the benefit will offset the $20,000 cost of the service dog, as well as travel, lost wages, future training and other expenses.

Several people have already stepped forward to help the family, either by making private donations or raising funds at school and public events, Church said.

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Wateland said the charity ball initially supported the middle school character program, but now it's used to also benefit someone in the community.

Last year, the event raised more money than expected, and Wateland said she hopes the same will happen this year.

To donate, contact Wateland at 701-662-7664.

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