Why we do our bit for Support Dogs

​The Nuttons don’t have to think twice about raising money for Support Dogs.
Stanley with mum Gemma, Dawnay and Jean HolroydStanley with mum Gemma, Dawnay and Jean Holroyd
Stanley with mum Gemma, Dawnay and Jean Holroyd

It’s a way of giving back to the national charity, which has given their little boy some independence.

Seven-year-old Stanley is autistic and he and his assistance dog Dawnay, trained and provided by Sheffield-based Support Dogs, are inseparable.

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The four-year-old yellow Lab has been helping to keep Stanley safe, ever since he went to live with Stanley and his family in Sheffield in September 2021. After six months of intensive training, mum Gemma, Stanley and Dawnay qualified as a partnership.

Autistic youngsters are known to ‘bolt’, often running into traffic. But Dawnay is trained to ‘brace’ to keep Stanley anchored. He has also given him some confidence to try visiting new places.

The family can’t thank Support Dogs enough for bringing Dawnay into their lives.

So much so, they have dedicated the past few years to raising money for the charity.

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They estimate that they have raised more than £3,000 for the national cause, which trains and provides assistance dogs to help autistic children and adults living with epilepsy or a physical disability to live safer, more independent lives.

The money was amassed when Stanley’s dad Alan, 42, completed the London Marathon 2023 in a very respectable three hours and 13 minutes, raising more than £1,840 in sponsorship.

Alan, 42, who owns WahWah Records in Wakefield, also did the Great North Run in 2021 in aid of Support Dogs.

And they always have a collection tin at their independent record shop, which has just celebrated its 10th anniversary.

Gemma said: “We are always fundraising.

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“We had Richard Hawley [ex Longpigs guitarist and Pulp collaborator] come into the shop at one point and he signed lots of things for auction and all the money went to Support Dogs.

“When we did the Great North Run we also held raffles and our daughter Eva made lots of tie-dye tote bags to sell in the shop. We’ve done quite a lot of little bits and bobs for the charity over the years.”

Gemma, 30, who is also mum to 17-month-old Rosa, said Alan will no doubt do more runs for Support Dogs.

“He’s a runner anyway,” she said.

“He always trains but if he’s training for the London Marathon or Great North Run he has a 16-week block of training. He ran a minimum of 5k every day in 2023 ‘just because’. In the Great North Run, he was in the group behind the elites. We’re so proud of him.”

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The family’s efforts earned them the title of Outstanding Partnership at Support Dogs’ graduation and awards ceremony.

“I didn’t expect it at all, when Rita, the charity’s chief executive, called me to let me know,” said Gemma.

“It was Dawnay’s birthday when she rang me and we were out having a birthday walk with Dawnay’s foster carers, Jean and John Holroyd – they are like family to us and it was a lovely surprise to receive the call.

“We visit them and although Stanley is still a bit wary of going to new places, when we visit Jean and John’s they are so patient with Stanley and such lovely people. Jean came to the awards ceremony with us.”

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Gemma added that Stanley was able to attend the recent awards event and collect his award, whereas last year, when he actually graduated, he stayed home as she thought it may be too much for him.

Describing the family’s motivation to raise funds for Support Dogs, Gemma said: “It’s a way for us to give back – that’s why we do it.

“We’ve got Dawnay and there’s only one Dawnay.

“She’s absolutely beautiful and she’s just the right everything.

“I don’t think we could every really have just your average dog – she’s very special and caters to what we need. Her personality is just spot on for us and we feel very lucky to have Dawnay. It’s nice to give back any way we can.”

To find out more about Support Dogs, please visit www.supportdogs.org.uk

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