Diabetic 6-year-old sells pumpkins to buy alert dog after he wasn't allowed to take school bus
Ian Unger was asked to stop taking the school bus because his type 1 diabetes requires constant supervision which the school was not able to provide
Ian Unger, a six-year-old boy, was excited to start the new school year as a first grader in Sand Lake, Michigan when he heard from school officials that he would have to stop taking the school bus because of his type 1 diabetes. 38-year-old Katrina Christensen, his mother, said that the school was not going to provide him with an aide to ride in the bus and monitor his blood sugar.
She told PEOPLE: "[The district doesn’t] feel like it’s safe for him to ride the bus without [another adult] on it. So, they were gonna pick him up on an empty school bus at 8:45 a.m. — school starts at 8:30 a.m. He just wants to be like everybody else … to put him on an empty bus is unfair."
The family then decided to come up with a creative solution. Together, they planned to get an alert dog for the toddler who had been diagnosed with diabetes when he was four-years-old. The alert dog will be able to tell when the boy needs to eat something sweet the moment his blood sugar gets too low. An alert dog, however, would cost at least $25,000 along with training costs and other fees.
Christensen told PEOPLE that this kind of money would have taken years for the family to come up with until they decided to take to social media. She said: "It was one of those things where, 'Are we ever gonna have $25,000 to spend on a dog? Probably not.' Ian wanted to start raising money, we talked about saving for it. We thought it would be three or four years before we raised the money."
She continued: "He started wanting to do a lemonade stand, anything to raise the money. Then lemonade season was getting to be over, so we told Ian he could have the family’s pumpkin patch this year. He said, 'I’m gonna sell pumpkins and I’m gonna get my dog!'" The family then made the decision to let Ian take over the annual pumpkin sale that went viral after a stranger posted about it on Facebook.
The proud mother said: "He’s quite the little salesman. We had hundreds of people in the driveway. He helped every single person pick out the right pumpkin. It was the coolest thing to see." Ian's story quickly spread through the internet so Christensen set up a fundraiser on Facebook to raise money for the alert dog. In a little less than a week, the fundraiser which had a goal of $20,000 was able to raise $24,890. Ian, who also has a little sister, Alexia, raised more than $1,000 selling pumpkins and $110 selling lemonade.
Christensen said that he is well on his way to getting the alert dog of his dreams and the mother said that the child was excited when he was given the news. She said: "He was super excited. He was just amazed that he was getting his dog." Ian will have to wait for 10 months while the dog goes through training.
The mother gushed about her son and said: "Ian is an extremely happy kid and he always has been. He always helps people. With diabetes, he’s taken it quite well. I’m very proud of him. He could be mad about it, but he’s not. He’s like, 'This is how it is. This is what I have to do.' And he just does it."