For the past 29 years, Stacie Thornburgh and her family have been making regular trips to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. Her first trip to Riley occurred when she was only one-day-old. Within the first week of her life, she received heart, eye, brain, and spine surgeries.

Since being born eight weeks premature, Thornburgh has defied all odds. Although the doctors didn’t have much hope for her after her birth, she would not give up fighting.

After suffering from a heart attack at only 24-hours-old, Thornburgh made her first of many trips to Riley Hospital. Since then, she has had over 240 surgeries to help her continue to fight.

“I have balance issues and tend to drop things,” Thornburgh said. “The heart disease tends to affect me not being able to go as far, as far as walking. I have spinal disease, a spinal problem, which is slowly debilitating my ability to walk.”

Thornburgh suffers from cerebral palsy, cardiomyopathy, hydrocephalus and spinal problems, all of which affect her day-to-day activities. Therefore, she needs a service dog to help her perform her daily tasks.

Kira, Thornburgh’s 10-year-old Yellow Labrador, had been her service dog for years until her recent retirement due to arthritis. Kira was able to do many jobs in order to help Thornburgh.

“She can call 911 with her special phone,” Thornburgh said. “She can pick things up I drop. She can help with the wheelchair. She can fetch my medicine bag. She can get a pop or a bottle of water out of the refrigerator and hand it to me. She can open and close doors. She can help me do the laundry. I mean she has over 55 different tasks she is screened for.”

The list goes on and on. But now that Kira is retired, Thornburgh is in need of a new service dog. Sterling Service Dogs is a small non-profit organization that is training Thornburgh’s new service dog, which will most likely be a Collie.

But training the dog is not the hard part, coming up with $9,500 to purchase the dog is. As of right now Thornburgh still needs about $1,000 before she can bring home her new service dog.

Like her past three service dogs, her new one would not only help her with her daily tasks, but would hopefully attend Indiana University Dance Marathon with her in the fall. She has not missed a single IUDM since they began and plans on keeping her perfect attendance with a new service dog by her side.

“IUDM has meant a lot to me,” Thornburgh said. “I look forward to it every year. When I get the date I put it on my calendar. It’s really a special event and something that I really look forward to because it means a lot to me.”

Here is a link to the fundraising page for Stacie’s new service dog:


By:  Katelyn Hodgman