For families with children with autism, a service dog can be life changing.
Radio Systems Corporation is giving four families the opportunity to own a service dog.
The Knoxville pet company donated $10,000 to Wilderwood Service Dogs in Maryville. The non-profit will train the dogs for the families.
"In this economy, it's really hard to provide non-profit services like we do. And when someone with a big heart like Randy [Boyd] and Radio Systems steps in and we're allowed to do what we do best, train service dogs, it just takes the burden off of everybody," said Tiffany Denyer of Wilderwood Service Dogs.
The Sipe family of Mt. Juliet is one of the families that will receive the scholarship. Their 8-year-old son Riley has autism and cannot speak. Riley's condition causes him to be easily stressed and upset, especially in public.
Service dogs have been proven to calm children down, help families sleep through the night, and keep them safe.
"It's so common for him to run away from us or even for someone to walk in between our family and not realize that Riley is different because autism doesn't look different. In that second he can be gone. The safety reason is probably number one. All the other benefits are icing on the cake," said Riley's mother, Karen.
It will take up to a year for the Sipes to receive their dog. The families will then spend a week on Wilderwood's campus to bond with their dog.
The other families receiving the dogs live all over the country.