Coleman family donates $5,000 to service dog charity and issues challenge

James Royal is a 3-year old fountain of energy, smiles and love. He plays with trains, cars and his learning tablet.  He has favorite movies and he loves to run.  Sounds normal for a 3 year old.

James and his dad share a moment of joy.

James and his dad share a moment of joy.


Pictured L to R: James Coleman, Jr., Daryl Royal with James Royal, James Coleman, Sr., Patrick Coleman, Erin Royal and David Coleman. Not pictured is Dolores Coleman.

But with James, he is challenged by almost everything in life.

James suffered a stroke during birth which caused permanent brain damage.  As a result, he has trouble communicating verbally.  He can speak only about six words and uses sign language for most of what he needs.  James also has a sensory processing disorder which interferes with his ability to sense pain normally or know where his body is in space.  His auditory processing disorder leaves him in his own zone, and unable to focus on words or voices.  And to top it off, he has a mild case of cerebral palsy.

James’ dad Daryl said the doctors kept telling them that he would grow out of it.  And by the time he was 2 and wasn’t speaking, the doctor finally gave them a speech therapy referral.

While speech therapy has helped James, no one is sure what the outcome will be. He still struggles with communication, a lack of balance and coordination.  He is prone to trips and falls because his brain has difficulty sending messages to his muscles to execute motor skills.

There is hope waiting for James and the Royals.  A leading nonprofit provider of service dogs to children, 4 Paws for Ability, has accepted James to receive a service dog.  Unlike other organizations, they do not have an age limit for children who need service dogs, and their wait time is only 18 months, compared to the five years of other organizations.

A service dog for James would be trained to help him with mobility by wearing a harness that would provide stability and improve his balance.  The dog would also be trained to disrupt unwanted behaviors by distracting him with a touch, nudge or the feeling of deep pressure which James needs.  And most important, the dog would be trained to track James’ scent if he were to wander off.  “James is so full of love and trust that he has no stranger-danger awareness,”

The recipients of service dogs must first fundraise $15,000 for the organization much like a volunteer would.  Once the funds are raised, the dog is selected and goes through 18 months of training.

The story of little James immediately captured the attention of Navarre resident, James Coleman.  He and his wife, Dolores, decided they could help.  He and three of his sons, David, James and Patrick joined the Royals on Oct. 27 in their home to present them with a check for $5,000 to go to 4 Paws for Ability for their fundraising efforts.  “This story has been personal to me from the beginning.  I served twenty years in the military, I have children, and I have been blessed.  I want to help this young man get the dog he needs,” said Coleman as he handed Erin and Daryl a check.  Coleman also said he was challenging other Navarre businesses and organizations to donate.  “If every small business in Navarre gave $100 and every big business gave $500 we would be done,” said Coleman.  “We are going to make this happen for this little boy.  My goal is to start the clock (on the 18-month wait) by Thanksgiving.”

Prior to the Coleman family’s

donation, the Royals had raised $5,000 through close friends and family members.  Coleman’s check puts them two-thirds of the way to their goal.

James’ emotional parents were in tears at the generosity of a stranger.  “We never thought this could happen.  We were thinking maybe sometime next year we might have the funds raised, and now we are only $5,000 away,” said Erin.

4 Paws for Ability began 17 years ago after founder Karen Shirk tried for years unsuccessfully to obtain a service dog from various agencies.  After obtaining her own dog and securing the training herself, she set out to start her own organization.  The nonprofit is now a large and thriving organization in Xenia, Ohio.

Donations can be made in James’ honor by going to or mailing a check notated with “In honor of James Royal” to 4 Paw for Ability, Inc., 253 Dayton Ave., Xenia, Ohio, 45385.  All donations are tax deductible.

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