XENIA, Ohio (WDTN) — After nearly three years, a local family finally gets the service dog they need for their son.

“Thank you so much to everybody who responded to our first story, who donated, who cared, who shared who prayed for us,” says Starla Stevenson, Christian’s mom.

Christian, now 13 years old, was diagnosed at a young age with autism and sensory processing disorder.

The Stevensons’ journey began at 4 Paws for Ability in Xenia at the end of 2020. That’s when they started fundraising for a service dog for Christian.

After meeting their fundraising goal in early 2021 and going through all of the paperwork, they found a match for Christian.

“Our match process is pretty involved,” says 4 Paws for Ability Senior Trainer Bethany Hickman. “After litters are born, that’s when they start being evaluated for their potential to be a service dog. We look at their personality. We look at kind of their natural instincts towards different tasks. We talk to staff that raised them. We talk to fosters that help us raise them. We conduct multiple evaluations where we actually get hands-on with the dogs. So it’s a pretty long process.”

Through the nonprofit, Christian was matched with Georgia.

“We picked Georgia because she’s calm and lovable and just such a sweet friend,” says Bethany.

Lexie Foster helped train Georgia to get her ready.

“It means the world to me, and it is my passion and my purpose to be able to do that for them,” says Lexie. “I know she’s right where she belongs.”

Georgia has now joined the Stevenson family after graduating this month from 4 Paws for Ability.

“There’s really no words to describe how much of an impact this has had on our family,” says Starla. “We really needed the help with Christian with his sensory overload. Just even within the first few days of joining our family, [Georgia] was able to provide those things for him.”

“We went to the grocery store for the first time. We went to a Walmart. And he did not have an anxiety attack,” describes Starla.

Georgia now helps Christian navigate the world, giving him the comfort he needs.

“These dogs provide so much more than a medical alert. They provide a friendship and a bridge to socialization,” says Starla. “It’s been amazing.

The Stevenson family says with Georgia helping Christian handle crowds, they’ve been able to go places they’ve never gone before. They say it’s been life-changing for their family.