an autism journey

Archive for August, 2012

The Big Bad Wolf, Pepsi, and Global Giving

If you are following our story, you know an agreement was reached with the Illinois Attorney General’s office and Ms. Lea Kaydus of Animals for Autism. She has been required to pay the families back in full, including donations that came in on behalf of our children. That is great, right? If you are therefore wondering why we are not jumping up and down for joy, let me explain it to you.

The investigation led to a discovery of several hundreds of dollars in donations that the families were lied to about. Lea Kaydus hid donations that our friends, family, and community had donated to help our children. She stopped communicating with us. She sent us old pictures of dogs and said they were our children’s dogs currently in training. She lied about her experience, her staff, her dogs. She broke all communication with us. We never received our promised financial documents or contracts, training agreements. We were never “introduced” to our dogs as promised.

Still, there is no admission of guilt whatsoever. She faces no criminal charges, and Pepsi and Global Giving are allowing her to keep $50,000 in funding that they gave her to use to help provide our children with service dogs. She keeps it all. The families involved have wasted a lot of time that we didn’t have to waste and have been through a great deal of stress. Her settlement is about as harsh as me returning an item to WalMart and asking for a refund… then letting them keep the gift card that was used as partial payment.

Here is what her attorney has to say about all this:

Kaydus’ attorney, Patrick Smith of Springfield, said he doesn’t necessarily agree with Madigan’s statements about Kaydus’ conduct, and Kaydus denies any wrongdoing.

“It is easier to resolve it this way and go forward,” Smith said.

Kaydus was planning to provide dogs to the families that paid her, but the training was taking longer than the families expected, Smith said.

The proposed settlement would allow Kaydus to continue to work with five other families still waiting for dogs from Animals for Autism, Smith said. She plans to provide dogs to those families, Smith said.

 You can read the full article here:

That doesn’t exactly seem like she is sorry, does it? Nor does it seem she has even been stopped from continuing to hurt others.  As for Pepsi and Global Giving and their role in all this…… ….. hear their silence? It seems Animals for Autism, Pepsi, and Global Giving are all very similiar to each other. They none care.

Guess what though… we (the families) are stronger than all this. We will carry on…. our children will overcome. The three characters mentioned above are the real losers.


A “Shadow” of Our Past: A Pepsi Pup Final Chapter

 Sorry. That seems like such a simple word.  It is only 5 letters, but those letters put together have the power to heal, to change lives, to mend relationships. A word full of power and yet so often, a word left unsaid.

Once upon a time there were families struggling with autism. Their children needed help and they turned to an organization called Animals for Autism. They were promised service dogs. Dogs that would help their children and be a friend to them. It gave the families hope. The dogs were to be placed with the children in Spring  2012.

Fast forward to today. Not one. Not even ONE of the families ever received a dog. It was a scam. When the families found out, they were hurt, confused, and angry. Sadly, it turns out there were many characters involved in this story. Each one had the opportunity to do the right thing, but chose to protect  themselves instead. They quietly slipped away, no explanations, no apologies.

There is the main character…. The founder of Animals for Autism, Lea Kaydus.  She took our money and our hopes and then disappeared. She moved to a location that we only found thanks to a google search and a reporter willing to look for the truth. She stopped responding to phone calls and emails. No apology.

There was her husband whose Paypal account accepted the money. That seems like a fairly large role to play. We certainly haven’t heard from him. No apology.

Then there were the other “supporting” but very vital characters such as Pepsi. Afterall, they gave $50,000 to the founder of AFA. Oh but wait, it seems dispite what was publicly put out on their website, the grant agreement was changed to fund a kennel and supplies, not actual service dogs or training. There is the important role they played however in assuring the families that AFA was legitimate when we began to have concerns. They even said  they were “honored” to work with the founder of AFA. I do believe the Attorney General of IL is quoted as calling her “a heartless scam,” but Pepsi is honored to work with her? No apology.

Then there is Global Giving. Can’t leave them out. Pepsi put us in contact with them when we wouldn’t stop complaining. It seems Global Giving is who was actually overseeing the grant.  They were the ones responsible for making sure everything was legitimate and the money was spent properly. They sent employees out for an on site visit to AFA and came back still saying everything was fine. Something about seeing 20 dogs in training and lots of volunteers? Well, Global Giving, the gag is up. They say the grant is closed and have no comment. No apology.

I don’t want to leave out the characters in our story who ignorantly spoke out against the families scammed simply because of a few statements put out by GG that all was fine. We were criticized for being ungrateful and impatient and one individual even had a blog writing on just such a subject that actually praised GG when they didn’t have all the facts. No aplology.

It was turned over to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. A full year after the first complaint was filed, there was finally action. A deal was struck. Our money will be returned over the course of the next several months. Money back, but no apology.

Since it seems clear that the families scammed in this mess will never receive an apology from any of the characters involved here in our story, let me offer one instead.

To all those who donated  directly to Animals for Autism on my son’s behalf, I am truly sorry. I may never even know about some of you since it turns out that we were not being told about all the donations that came in. Our family, friends, and community truly stepped up… we just didn’t know it at the time.

To those who joined me in voting for AFA in the Pepsi Refresh Project in the hopes that it would benefit my son and others like him, I am sorry. I regret that I asked you to help us by spending your time, energy, and money (on Pepsi products) to vote for AFA. I wish instead that we all would have bought a Coke and called it a day.

To those who learned about AFA through the publicity generated by the Pepsi Refresh Everything Project and AFA giving away 10 “free” (yeah, right) service dogs and perhaps took interest in receiving your own service dog through them…. I am especially sorry that my son’s name was used to promote any such scam. I truly did not ever give my permission for that info to be used (by Pepsi or AFA) that way and had no idea at the time that it was such a scam.

To all who were taken advantage of by Animals for Autism and Pepsi simply because you wanted to help my family… I am sorry.

Now that I got the ball rolling with apologies, perhaps someone else would like to join in…. anyone?

(SILENCE…. very awkward silence)

That is what I thought.

Thankfully,our story has a happy ending. Our son will be getting an autism assistance dog from 4 Paws for Ability this October. Thank you to all who have made that possible. If you would like to read more about that story… feel free to check out my past blogs.

Sadly the happy ending is not for all the families. For some of the families, they are in the midst of crisis… perhaps a service dog would not have prevented their crisis, but the stress of the past year and half has certainly not helped. They are waiting for their happy endings….. to be continued.

Quest for a Tough Fidget

I have been searching high and low for the perfect fidget for my son. He has a need to always have something in his hand to flick, squish, and fidget with. He takes them everywhere. For some reason, it just makes him feel better to have something to do with his hands. It comforts and relaxes him. The problem? He is tough on them… really tough. Needless to say, we go through a lot! Not only is it difficult to find one that lasts, it is difficult to find one that I feel safe enough to let him run around with. Oh there are plenty of tough fidgets out there (that he won’t touch), but he prefers the ones that feel soft and squishy. We have been through a slew of the puffer type balls. They are about as tough as a balloon, so neither safe for a boy who mouths things, nor practical since they cost anywhere from $1-$5 each and last about 5 minutes (if lucky). We have tried the rubbery turtles with the hard shells… the shells get pulled off and within days, the heads are bitten off and tears follow when mommy can’t fix it. We tried the little animals filled with tiny pellets… I will be cleaning up those tiny pellets forever in my car. Slinkies get tangled, silly putty ends up in the ears, playdoh gets eaten, water wigglers leak and gel balls ooze out slime after a finger punctures it….. So, we are so happy to have finally found a really tough fidget that he actually likes. It is called Bug Out Bob and it is the ugliest thing ever, but it is tough and still squishy. It has been sat on, pulled on, squeezed and bitten (although I don’t recommend it as a chewy toy by any means and strongly discourage him to use it as such… but we all know what happens when mom isn’t looking). We found it at Discount School Supply   (it is called Martian Popping Thing in the catalog and online, but the box says Bug Out Bob) for $7.99 and it is worth every penny. 

 WARNING: The box does have a warning label for a choking hazard and says not for children under 3 years old.

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