Funds sought for area man’s seizure-response canine

■ BY SUE ERWIN     frank-szoke

Emmy Szoke was a very proud mom when her son Frank graduated from Lemon Bay High School and at the same time completed a dual enrollment aviation maintenance program with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2015.

Frank is a descendent of the Cole, Futch and Dixon families, all of whom have been island families for generations. He is a distant relative of Mark Futch.

After graduating, Frank began intensive training for the Coast Guard, and he planned to pursue an aviation and military career.

Last year, he experienced an unexpected grand mal seizure due to un-diagnosed epilepsy.

“Fortunately, it happened while he was at home. It could have been a very dangerous situation had it happened while he was driving or working,” Emmy said.

Frank experienced a second seizure a few months later.

“The second one lasted about three to four minutes, but it felt like 30 minutes. All of the muscles in his body constricted, which then caused him to stop breathing and turn blue,” she said. Emmy said Frank has violent reactions to the attacks. “He does not know when he’s about to have a seizure, nor does he have a trigger that warns him of a seizure. He is very combative during the seizures. He dislocated his shoulder during the last one,” she said.

After doing some research, Emmy found an organization called Canines 4 Hope, a certified service dog training academy based in Palm City, Fla. The dogs are matched and personally trained with the people they serve. They’re trained to respond when their owners experience medical issues related to epilepsy, diabetes, autism or other crises. Epilepsy alert dogs are trained to recognize, respond and help someone who has epilepsy or a seizure disorder by summoning help, pulling objects away, blocking the individual, rousing the unconscious handler, providing physical support and carrying information. They can even sense when an impending seizure may happen and alert the handler.

The cost for Frank’s K9 is estimated to be around $13,000. Training will begin in the next few weeks.

“Frank will then have to go over to the east coast for four days to meet and train with his new K9. The training will last for up to eight months,” Emmy said.

She recently opened an account at Wells Fargo to help raise funds for the cause.

All donations are tax-deductible, and checks should be made out in Frank’s name. There is also a GoFundfMe account that she has started, to update people about upcoming events as well as post the overall progress of the fundraiser.

Frank is currently attending State College of Florida to pursue a career in psychology, and he is also working full time.

“He had to take his first year of college over again due to the memory loss he had from his previous seizures,” Emmy said.

She said the family has raised almost 20 percent of the money so far, but they still need more help. She’s been busy planning other fundraisers that will take place in January and February of 2017.

“We’re going to be having an art party at Old Florida Outdoor Center and Gallery on Dearborn Street in Englewood. The owners are donating the studio space, and we are planning the event in February. Nichole Moranda will be the featured artist,” she said.

There will also be a big yard sale, an outdoor smoked mullet barbecue and a 50/50 raffle to be held within the next couple of months. The dates for these events have not yet been set, so keep reading the Boca Beacon for updates.

If you have anything you’d like to donate for the sale, please contact Emmy at (941) 457-0744 or send an email to servicek9fundraiser@gmail.com.

If you’d like to donate to the cause, please visit any Wells Fargo bank location or visit gofundme.com/frankszokek9. For more information, visit Canines4Hope.com.