Gerri Mikelski and her husband John had plans when their children moved out of the house. They had home projects, vacations planned and numerous other activities they have not done in years…

But sometimes life does not turn out the way it is planned to.

Gerri, 63, found out nine years ago that her son and his girlfriend had a child. A child neither was fit nor ready to take care of her. Gerri’s son avid and his girlfriend lived a life like most addicts do. Gerri was fearful that their child Judy would not have a roof over her head.

“Judy has many health issues some caused by the bio parents doing drugs and no prenatal care, some caused by genetics and some issues no one knows why. One doctor told me Judy is a puzzle and all the pieces have just not been put together completely yet.” Gerri said.

So she did what any loving grandmother would do. She took Judy into her home at nine months. They then got custody of her at two-and-a-half years old and adopted her. Judy is nine now and Gerri has become the loving mother to her that she was for her other kids.

“When I took her she was nine months old. She was very tiny and could not do things that she should be doing developmentally. She did not move like a normal child. She was floppy, unable to sit, roll over. She did not cry much, she stared into space a lot. She vomited frequently and slept poorly. She had a horrible skin condition red patches all over her scalp and body. I took her to the doctor the parents did just to ask the doctor why did she not advocate for this innocent child. Why did she not notice she was not developing normally? She did not answer me; I then told her she would never see this child again.” Gerri said.

Gerri has been the main caregiver ever since.

Judy is now a loving and beautiful nine year old but also has a number of developmental issues. Judy’s official diagnoses are autism, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, developmental delays –including speech, gross and fine motor skills — Duane’s syndrome in her right eye, bilateral club foot, and attention deficit disorder. She has the mentality of a four year old and is still learning to read. She is able to talk and walk and is working hard every day on her motor skills.

Gerri is realistic. She knows that when Judy is a teenager she will be over 65 years old and when she is 18 she will be over 70. She will not always be there for her so she needs to help her plan for the future.

So she has decided to try to help get Judy a service dog through a wonderful organization called “4 Paws For Ability” based out of Ohio. They place 100 dogs a year for kids with disabilities and veterans who have lost use of limbs and hearing. For children, these dogs can save their lives by alerting seizures even before they happen. They help children with Autism. These dogs are trained for years. Gerri chose them after being turned down by another organization for a service dog.

Gerri has dedicated to help get Judy a service dog. It will be one of the best things for Judy.

“4 Paws For Ability” asks that the person requesting a dog try to raise $13,000 (The dog and training itself is well over $20,000). Gerri has seeked out numerous organizations and people including her own daughter and popular health blogger Roni Noone who has organized a “Virtual 5K Turkey Trot” with prizes and all proceeds will go to help get Judy a service dog.

Money is tight for Gerri and John. They have sacrificed jobs and health issues to care for Judy. It has been a long road for the Mikelski’s. Is it worth it?

“She makes me happy every day and sad some days too. I feel guilt that she is the way she is because my son is her father. He was brought up better and was taught right from wrong. I often think how could he not want to see, know her. How can he live with himself? How can he go to sleep at night and not hug and kiss his daughter. Doesn’t he want to know if she is growing thriving, learning. Does she have friends? This makes me sad all of the time and then I look at Judy and thank God for giving her to me and my husband. She is a lot of work but worth every minute of every day she is a joy and wonder.” Gerri said.

Gerri is a loving grandmother.

Nearly 1 million children are living in homes where the grandparent is the householder and neither parent is present in the home. There are good and bad days for Gerri. It is not an easy life to take care of a child after having to do it for so many years…

But it is very worthwhile. Just ask Gerri.

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