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Stephany and Mikey, Georgia

In 1985, Stephany was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident. After the accident she moved forward with resilience, competing on the national and international level in disabled waterskiing and raising an accomplished daughter. But after spinal surgery left her with less mobility, and with her daughter off at college, Stephany wondered if a service animal might be right for her.

“As a little girl I remember asking my mom, on numerous occasions, if I could have a monkey,” says Stephany. “Little did I know that her adamant NO would actually turn into a YES for me later in life.”

Stephany with Tracey and with MikeyTracey was matched with Stephany in 2011, and the two became an inseparable pair, featured in the film, Imagine a Monkey. Sadly, in late 2014, Tracey passed away.

“My heart was broken,” said Stephany. “I felt tremendous sorrow—such sadness over losing such an amazing animal whose love and companionship had changed my life. When some time had passed, the idea of sharing my home with another service monkey was difficult to process. Could I feel that same love and bond that I felt with Tracey? My head said yes, but my heart really needed to be ready.”

In March of 2015, Helping Hands matched her with a second service monkey, Mikey.

“I've always heard parents of two describe their children being totally different but never really understood it because I was a mom of a single child. I came to understand it having had Tracey and then Mikey. Two TOTALLY different personalities. Tracey and I enjoyed a common bond in painting. I think that was the coolest aspect of our relationship. Whereas Mikey is my little athlete.  She is very task oriented and always wants to be doing something. She’s a very curious little one who loves to know what is going on everywhere. Mikey isn't interested in painting; she is interested in protecting me, cuddling with me, and making sure I am cared for. The coolest thing I've experienced with Mikey is seeing her play with my daughter, which Tracey had little interest in.

People often ask me 'What does your monkey do for you?' My answer is partially explaining the specific tasks Mikey does, but I also talk about what she does for me on a companionship level. She is my little buddy who I hang out with when I'm not having a good day—or even when I am—and accepts me for me. No expectations on her end, other than being fed and keeping a routine in her life. My life has changed drastically in the last five years because as an aging person and paraplegic I’ve had to slow down. But having a monkey has gotten me through the transition to my new life.

As donors and friends of Helping Hands you, too, have had a part in my story and making sure it had a happy ending. Thank you for your support of this incredible organization.

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