By Joe Korba
In a tight-knit community like Weatherly everyone knows one another. They eat at the same restaurants, shop at the same stores and all of their kids go to school together. Generations play basketball on the same courts and congregate in the same parks as they have for decades. Weatherly is a town that rallies behind it’s own, and pulls together when someone needs help. A local woman, Rebecca Ravina reached out to the Weatherly community last week and has received a tremendous amount of support from both locals and from people around the country.
Ms. Ravina’s three-year-old daughter, Gianna, has been afflicted with seizures since she was 9 months old. These seizures are unpredictable and vary in intensity from partial seizures, which affect a certain part of the brain and have symptoms that may be overlooked by an untrained eye to very serious Grand Mal (Tonic-clonic) seizures that affect the entire brain and cause loss of consciousness and convulsions. Because of her condition Gianna has very strict limitations on physical activity. She can’t climb trees and has to be carefully monitored when climbing stairs and just generally being a little kid – running, jumping and playing.
The little girl loves to dress up in tutus and high heels but never hesitates to dig for worms or play war with her older brother. She has a favorite blanket, from which she is inseparable. Unfortunately, along with her blanket, Gianna has to always carry a backpack containing Diastat, a medication that can stop one of her seizures about five-minutes after she starts showing symptoms. Gianna has been seen at the renowned Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and gets regular MRIs and EEGs to track changes and abnormalities. Because of the potential for a seizure at any time, Ms. Ravina has to keep a very close eye on her daughter constantly. But, she recently made a discovery that would make life easier, and much safer, for both mother and daughter.
The idea to get a service dog, specifically a seizure response dog, came to Ms. Ravina as she was thinking of better ways to supervise Gianna as her condition changes and evolves. According to Ms. Ravina the seizures are “always different, the longest one lasted twenty five minutes.” A seizure response dog would be alert to subtle changes that might signal an oncoming seizure which would allow anyone supervising Gianna to make sure she is safe should she start to show symptoms. As well as being practical and predicting seizures, the dog would also comfort Gianna afterwards. However, the service dogs, because of their breeding and training, are somewhat cost prohibitive. The chocolate Labrador Retriever, a breed favored for their mild temperament, from Endless Mountain Labradors will run about $7,000, including specialized training at Marx’s Lehigh Valley Dog Training.
To help cover the costs of getting Gianna her dog Ms. Ravina began to plan a fundraiser and launched an online campaign. As of press time the social media driven campaign has raised well over $900.
“I can’t believe how many people are donating items for the fundraiser and how many have made donations online. It’s truly amazing how people will come together to help someone else. People I don’t know have made donations, people from other states. There are also quite a few that are reaching out to local organizations to help make this possible. I can never thank any of these people enough,” Ms. Ravina says of the tremendous response she’s gotten in just the first few days of the fundraising campaign.
If you’d like to donate, or help out, a fundraiser will be held at the Weatherly Fire House, 107 Spring St., Weatherly, from 2 – 9 p.m. on Saturday, February 23rd. There will be food and drinks for sale as well as a Chinese Auction with “some really cool stuff.” There will be live music with Nathan Pfieffer performing acoustic starting around 4 p.m., Charlie Cole will perform from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and local rock band BearDickBone will play from 7 – 8:30 p.m. Basket winners will be announced at 8:30 p.m. Puppies from the dog trainer will also be making an appearance. For more information, or to donate a basket, call 570-579-3950 or 570-578-4202. If you’d like to donate online, visit: