Help Hannah Fundraise for a Service Dog

I have recently been accepted to receive a service dog through Retrieving Independence . They are an incredible organization based in Nashville, TN dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities improve their quality of life through the assistance of highly trained service dogs. You can read more about their organization and follow their social media accounts by visiting their website here.
As a non-profit, Retrieving Independence can cover half of the cost of training their service dogs through generous donors and the hard work of volunteers, but the other half of the cost the recipient covers. It is a daunting task and I am aware I am asking a lot of my community. If you are able to donate, thank you for your generosity, every dollar makes a difference. If you are able to share this link with someone who may be in a place to help financially, thank you for advocating on my behalf. If you are able to share this on a social media platform, thank you for making space for me.
Below is more information about me and why I am raising this money.
A little bit about me and my disability:
I want to start by reminding you that not all disabilities are visible or look the same. My disability can vary in severity from day to day. Some days will be manageable with mild symptoms; on others, I will be in too much pain to move, too weak to walk, or dealing with debilitating anxiety and depression. Sometimes I can handle talking to people or walking to get mail from my mailbox and other days just hearing noise outside my apartment will send me into a panic attack. Every day is different and exhausting.
For those who don’t know, I struggle with a few different things, but my main disability is C-PTSD or complex post-traumatic stress disorder. If you are not familiar with what that is, it is when someone experiences prolonged, repeated or multiple forms of trauma. Because of the trauma I experienced throughout my childhood, I also struggle with dissociative symptoms, major depressive disorder, disordered eating, and have developed physical symptoms as a result of my trauma like chronic pain, migraine, and fatigue that have limited my mobility.
A few years after I graduated college, I started working through some of my childhood trauma when my PTSD was re-triggered after being sexually assaulted in my apartment. I was living in a state of fear with no safe place to retreat to, as I was afraid of being outside but was also triggered by the apartment in which I was assaulted. Nowhere was safe and I felt trapped. This only worsened as the pandemic hit and I felt cut off even more. I had some dark days early on in quarantine/shutdown, but I was so lucky to have my dog Brix by my side, making me laugh, comforting me, calming me down, and getting me outside every day. Losing him was devastating. Without him, I struggle even to make it outside my apartment complex alone. Being in public is impossible as my anxiety has worsened, and my panic attacks have increased in frequency and intensity. The little restful sleep I used to get is now nonexistent. It has been a rough time living without his assistance and companionship and it has shown me that I’m going to need help if I want to be able to function in the world again. I can’t rely on the few people I trust to be with me 24/7 so I look forward to the independence a new service dog will afford me. Initially, when I started the service dog application process, it felt like I would be replacing Brixi and it felt painfully wrong, but now I am seeing it as a continuation of the work that Brix helped me begin. I would never be where I am today without him. He was the dog who started it all. He just had to hand off the leash earlier than I expected or wanted. Being paired with a new service dog is my best shot at regaining my independence, living the life I have hoped for myself, and most importantly, continuing to heal. I want to be able to leave my apartment again, go on walks, enjoy public spaces, visit with friends at the coffee shop they want to meet up at, and maybe eventually go back into my workspace outside of my apartment every once in a while.
If you don’t know me:
Hi, I’m Hannah. I’m 29 years old and an artist and illustrator living in Tennessee. I love painting landscapes and beautiful scenery as a means for personal therapeutic benefit but also as a way to bring comfort to other people’s spaces and safe places. I have always found that nature brings me a sense of peace that nothing else can. I have enjoyed bringing my love of art to healthcare settings. I think that the arts are beneficial to the healing process and to healthcare/treatment spaces themselves. I am currently honored to be a contract artist for my city’s local children’s hospital, where I have created art pieces and installations for clinic/outpatient settings, hospital spaces, and research/office areas. I strongly believe that the art hanging on hospital walls should be intentional and can support positive outcomes for patients. It is my dream to be able to continue this work and hopefully I will have a chance to work with other hospitals and healthcare settings in the future.
As for anything else about me, I’m not too exciting currently for someone who doesn't leave their apartment. But I’m still able to crack jokes about my situation and my dry sarcastic personality still perseveres. I love listening to cello and orchestral music, doodling on my iPad, painting, solving crossword puzzles, putting together actual puzzles, sitting in my rocking chair on my porch, attempting to teach myself to play the violin to no avail, catching up on my favorite podcasts, and of course, spending time with my wonderful friends and neighbors who so kindly visit me at my apartment. Before I started experiencing physical limitations and decreased mobility with my disability, I loved running, hiking, and exploring with my previous service dog. I hope to build back up to some semblance of that kind of activity with a new service dog.
Finally, to the dog that started it all:
Brixi, thank you for helping me become the person I am today.
As many of you know, Brixi unexpectedly passed in April 2021. He had been trained as my service dog and helped me cope with everyday life. While he was first and foremost my service dog, he was also my best friend, my partner, my support system, and my family. It was Brixi and me, and everything was okay as long as I had him by my side.
When Brix put on his vest and went out into public with me, I knew I could count on him to help me cope with the stress of being around people. He went to grocery stores, restaurants, offices etc., joined me on road trips across the country, and even flew on airplanes with me. Without his vest on, he still did his job. When he was at home and there was noise in the stairwell, he would sit or lay by the front door to make me feel safe. When my breathing would become slightly irregular, he would come to me and nose his way into my space. When I cried, he came and sat with me and licked my tears away and let me hug him until my sobs subsided. When I had days where my body was in too much pain to move, he would lay with me on the couch, snuggled right up against me. When I would lose my balance walking, he let me hold onto his harness and he’d help lead me back up the stairs to my apartment or help me get up off the floor when I was drained of energy. He was so in tune with my emotions and could sense when I was getting anxious before I could, and he’d be pawing his way up into my lap to provide pressure therapy to calm me down before a panic attack set in. At night, if there was thunder, he would quietly walk into my room to make sure I was ok and lay down next to my bed in case I needed him. If I woke up from a nightmare and I was too scared to move or speak, I could snap my fingers and he’d come to me. He was such a smart pup and I owe him so much for everything he did for me. He loved with a fierce loyalty that I will never fully be able to explain.
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Fundraising team (2)

Hannah Lewellen
Memphis, TN
Jayme McGrail
Team member

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