an autism journey

Archive for the ‘Pepsi Pup Mess’ Category

Trading MY Plans for HIS Plans

Those of you who know our journey, know that our son had previously carried around a picture of a dog we thought was going to be his service dog, and said “my Shadow” when asked about it. At the time, he couldn’t even answer his own name. Last fall, with broken hearts, we took that picture away from him. That particular journey was at a dead end.

 Yesterday, that picture was replaced with a picture of a dog far more amazing than we could have ever hoped for. Our son received a picture and letter from his new soon to be LEGITIMATE service dog. If you now ask him who is your dog? He will tell you “ugget” (we are working on it, but what he means to say is Lugnut!). It was a day for shedding tears of joy.

Sometimes in life God exchanges OUR plans with HIS plans. I am so very grateful that He did, because HIS plan is so much better than mine could ever have been. This is the dog that God planned for our son all along.  Thank you to 4 Paws for Ability and to all who made this possible.

Meet the newest member of our family and our son’s new best friend “Lugnut”


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.

Fake dogs, bad soda, and not so charitable giving

As if the drama isn’t reading like some bad movie script as it is, a recent article from the Chicago Tribune came out with a most recent statment from Global Giving on the whole Pepsi Pup mess. Yet again, they are just trying to wiggle their way out.

I am just going to refer you to the blog posts of others involved in this mess. I don’t think there are any warm fuzzies going around for Global Giving right now. 

Oh and yes, we are all aware that you are keeping tabs on our blogs…..

Pepsi Pups Update

In the last few weeks, I have been asked several times…”whatever happened with the whole Animals for Autism/Pepsi Pup mess?”  (If you are wondering what I am talking about, you can go back to my previous posts on the Pepsi Pup mess).

Here we are June, a full year since the families became involved.  Ten children had been promised “free” autism service dogs from Animals for Autism through a Pepsi Refresh Everything Project. It was quite a publicity stunt. Pepsi even had the children’s names listed on their site along with pictures of adorable little puppies (what a shame those puppies’ pictures were several years old). The founder of the so called organization was given $50,000 for the project and service dogs were to be ready this past spring. Some of the families had already paid money for these so called “free” service dogs, but that is another story.

Well, guess what? There are no service dogs. To my knowledge, none of the families have been able to make any contact with Animals for Autism. (I cannot confirm all of them, but I have heard from most). Pepsi seems to have washed their hands of it entirely and Global Giving (the organization overseeing the grant) seems to have nothing to say. I sent them an email last month and they never bothered to respond. It seems the individuals who had been previously assigned this project have moved onto other things. It seems unclear who is now actually over  this project (if anyone). The organization that had spent so much time reassuring the families that everything was fine and to just sit quiet and wait, now seems to have nothing to say. Keep in mind this is the same organization that said they were on the grounds of the “facility” last January and saw 20 dogs on site and saw training in progress.  Now they sit quiet hoping this all goes away.

Last August, the case was brought to the attention of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office by one of the families. In November, several more complaints came in from some of the other families involved. Yet, none of the money has been returned, nor any charges brought against the founder.

So, to answer the question as to what happened to the Pepsi Pup Mess? NOTHING. No apologies, no explanations, no contact…nothing. Sometimes the bad guys win….momentarily.

On a much more positive note, three of the families will be receiving service dogs beginning in October from 4 Paws for Ability. They are the good guys who stepped in to clean up the mess. Wouldn’t it have been nice if Pepsi and Global Giving had chosen to have used that $50,000 to fund a real organization like 4 Paws for Ability? Maybe someday they will figure out where they went wrong.

Thanks Animals for Autism For NOT Giving Us a Dog

Today, I have an odd thank you to give out.  To those who have followed our story, you know that we were originally involved with a service dog organization that turned out to be a complete scam. We lost a lot of hard earned money, as well as generous donations from family, friends, and community. Pepsi and Global Giving became involved in this scam when they provided funding to the individual who was the “founder” of the so called organization…. funding that was supposed to help provide service dogs to children with autism(You can read more about our story in the previous blog entries). I, as well as the other families, have gone through a wide range of emotions. We were hurt, disappointed, confused, and angry. We tried to complain. We were told by Pepsi and Global Giving to just wait… everything is fine… and PLEASE be quiet. We took the proper channels to report what happened. We turned to media when all else failed. We hoped someone would hear us and do the right thing. 

Someone did. However, it wasn’t the founder of Animals for Autism. It wasn’t Pepsi. It wasn’t Global Giving. It wasn’t people in positions of authority who could have done something….. it was someone not involved in the mess in any way. It was instead someone who could have easily turned the other way and went on with the great work she was doing already… It was the founder of a REAL service dog organization called 4 Paws for Ability. It was someone with a gentle heart, who loves what she is doing, and wanted to help children in need. She stepped up once to help my son by providing a fully funded, well trained service dog (which he will be receiving in October). She could have stopped there…. but she didn’t. She just recently stepped up once again to help another family involved in this mess.  Her kindness seems to know no boundaries. She stepped in and went beyond the “right” thing when others who made the mess to begin with wouldn’t. I cannot say enough good things about 4 Paws for Ability.

I have been there on site and seen their dogs. I have seen the training sessions and met the individuals working with the dogs. It is amazing. They are a nationally recognized organization, well respected, honest, and trustworthy. They have trained hundreds…plural…hundreds of service dogs. My son (and now another beautiful little boy from the AFA mess) is going to get a well trained service dog. A dog far better than anything he would have gotten from AFA. It will be trained in behavior disruption, tethering, and tracking (yes, that is right…. The dog is being trained to track my son if, God forbid, he ever wanders off). Wow, we are so excited for what the future holds.

So, believe it or not, I am glad that the founder of Animals for Autism did not follow through on the Siberian husky that she promised us. It could have been a disaster for my son. I have since learned that Siberian Huskies (although beautiful animals) make terrible service dogs and are not recommended for ANY child, let alone an unpredictable special needs child. I have learned that the founder of Animals for Autism lied about her experience, her trainers, her staff, and about the dogs themselves. She was never qualified to train any service dog and certainly not capable of training a Siberian Husky for such a service.  Thank you Animals for Autism for NOT giving my son a dog. (I would however like my money back).

Pepsi assured us that the founder was well qualified and told us they were honored to work with her.  Global Giving (who oversaw the grant program for Pepsi) told us we didn’t know what we were talking about. They said they had seen the dogs in training. Everything was fine. The funding continued despite the evidence. It is because of them that we took our stories public.

 So, thank you Pepsi and Global Giving for NOT listening to us (although an apology would still be nice).  If they had listened to us and stopped their funding of this scam, if they had just admitted they were wrong, the families would have never turned to the media to have our stories heard. If we had never gone public with our stories,  4 Paws for Ability would have never heard about our situation, and so we would not be in the amazing spot we are now in.

So, in a strange way, I am glad for what happened, because in the end, my son is getting what he needs from a place very capable of providing it. However, I don’t want to forget the ones who started this whole thing to begin with. So as a way of saying thank you, I want to actually keep a promise my husband and I made to Animals for Autism’s founder way back last May when we made our first payment. We told her we would spread the word so that everyone would know about this little known organization and what they do….  I believe I am keeping that promise. I am trying to make sure EVERYONE does indeed know about Animals for Autism, their founder, their dogs, and EXACTLY what they do there. For good measure, I want to be sure  EVERYONE knows about the projects that Pepsi and Global Giving support as well…… You are welcome!

Standing For What Is Right…

Wondering what is going on with the Animals for Autism/Pepsi Refresh mess? The answer is nothing. Animals for Autism has pulled their facebook page (their website was already pulled down). Other than a mass email sent to some of the families weeks ago with no answers to anything, asking us to REQUEST our dogs if we still want them, no further contact has been made.  According to the last we heard from Global Giving and from Ms. Kaydus, dogs will be ready  for “delivery” starting this spring. I am not sure what the term “delivery” is supposed to mean. I have an image in my head of somebody driving by the homes of the children and pushing a dog out as the driver continues on. I am also unclear as to what kinds of dogs will indeed be available since they have not discussed training details with any of the families. Unless there is some mind reading powers I am unaware of, it seems impossible to train for a child’s specific needs without ever talking to the families about what those needs are.

It is now the middle of February. Flower bulbs are coming up in my garden as even the earth makes preparations  for the coming of spring, but preparations for service dogs remains unknown. Pepsi and Global Giving are sitting back hoping everyone just forgets about it. Other than my son (through the generosity of 4 Paws for Ability), it looks as though the children are going to be without the service dogs their families tried so hard to provide them with. Pepsi’s funding of the facility continues despite the fact that the families have been forgotten.

It seems as though the bad guys may indeed have won this particular battle. The ugly fact is we live in a fallen world, and sometimes bad things just happen to good people. It is not fair, but it is life. Despite that, I serve a God who remains in control and He has not forgotten these children. Perhaps things have not turned out the way we all would have liked, but the sheer fact that all of the families involved have been made aware before actually taking an untrained dog into their homes is indeed a sign of God’s protection.

 A child with autism is already at a heightened risk for things like dog bites  (Siberian Huskies rank #4 as the breed most likely to bite) because of their unpredictable sounds and movements that could easily spook a dog that was not properly bred and trained to work with such a child. Our children could have actually been placed in danger from taking one of these dogs. One of the things most of the families were counting on in a service dog was for the child to be able to be tethered to the dog when out in public, so as to help prevent the child from wandering off, but still give them a bit more independence by allowing them to walk with the dog and adult team rather than ride in a special needs stroller. Can you just imagine an untrained dog out in public tethered to a child and seeing something as simple as a cat that it would like to chase? The results could have been disasterous. What about a child having a meltdown, screaming, kicking, hitting their head on the floor because the world has become too stressful and a dog sits there beside them…  an untrained dog that has not been properly breed or even socialized…… As terrible as all this has been, it could have been much worse.

So what now? Some of the families have been burned so badly in this that they have decided they will no longer pursue a service dog at all, others are making preparations now to find another organization and sit on a waiting list for years. Some are making plans to raise needed funds, a difficult task for families that had already asked their communities to support them when they were raising funds for a service dog from Animals for Autism or for families who were publicly portrayed as receiving a free service dog already.  Almost a  full year has been wasted for some of these families. A year that could have been spent obtaining a real service dog.

Why we are we all so upset with Pepsi and Global Giving? Because they changed what the funding was to be used for and when we brought our concerns to them, they assured us everything was fine. They told some of us we  simply had a personal problem. I myself was actually told by a Pepsi representative that they were, and I quote, “honored to work with her.” They told us to just sit and wait…. And be quiet. When the truth came to light, they covered things up rather than admitting a mistake. They are large organizations. They are hard to fight. They have millions of dollars at their disposal. We are just a handful of special needs families. The odds are on their side, but sometimes standing up for what is right is not about winning or losing…. It is about what is right.

My family is boycotting Pepsi. I ask for the rest of you to join us in this boycott . Until Pepsi pulls their funding from this “project” and stands for what is right, Pepsi will not enter my home. I have seen in the news other projects where they retrieved their funds, so they can do it in this case as well.

 I am just one, but this one can affect another one who affects another one, and together we CAN all demand better for the families in this mess. I was just one when I voted for Lea Kaydus to get a $50,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Program. She needed my help then, and I made a difference (an action I regret in that case). Hopefully this time I can make a difference for something good. Perhaps it will not matter to Pepsi at all, but at the very least, I will take a stand for what is right. I will be saying to my son and the other children involved…. You matter to me. After all, the children are what this was all supposed to be about.

Tag Cloud