KENNEWICK -- Tristen Chambers-Berry is one big step closer to getting the service dog his family believes will greatly improve the quality of his life.
The 7-year-old Kennewick boy has autism, and his family has been trying to raise $13,000 for a specially trained pooch through the Ohio-based 4 Paws for Ability.
A recent donation from the owners of the Tri-Cities Fever brought them to their fundraising goal.
"There are no words that can match what I'm feeling inside," said mom Amala Berry, although she later tossed out a couple -- blessed and grateful. Her husband, Ed Berry, is a wide receiver for the team.
The Berrys say a service dog will help ease Tristen's interactions with others, calm and redirect him during meltdowns, keep him from darting away in public and track him if he does wander off.
The Herald published a story in April about Tristen and his need for a service dog.
The family was on its way to the $13,000, helped especially by a spaghetti feed at Uncle Sam's Saloon in Kennewick and a 50/50 drawing at a Fever game. Then, Fever owners Teri and J.R. Carr kicked in more than $7,000 -- surprising the Berrys at a recent game -- to bring them to their target. Teri Carr said the donation "felt like the right thing to do."
It still will take some time for Tristen to get his dog. Amala Berry said her family has been placed in a training class next spring. They'll have to raise more money for the trip to Ohio and lodging, she said.
She said her family is grateful to have reached this milestone. "We're really excited and thankful. Without Tri-City residents and friends and family and the Fever, none of this would have been possible," she said.
To donate, go to tinyurl.com/tristenchambersberry.