A suburban family who said they were swindled by a service dog trainer is now receiving assistance from the foundation of a legendary Chicago sports figure.
NBC 5 recently shared the story of Lila Tellone, a ten-year-old living with Type 1 diabetes. The Yorkville community surprised Lila’s family in 2017 by raising thousands of dollars for a dog to detect Lila’s blood sugar changes. The Tellones used the donated money to hire an Arizona-based dog trainer. But they said the trainer, Breane Peeples, has not communicated with them since January.
Peeples did not return our call for comment when we previously reached out to her.
The story was shared on social media and eventually made its way to Vicki Santo, the widow of former Chicago Cub third baseman and broadcaster, Ron Santo, who played his entire career with Type 1 diabetes.
“I know how much these dogs mean to the families and how they look forward to getting them,” said Vicki Santo. “To have somebody string them along for six months and send pictures of a dog and they’re never going to get that dog, it’s just horrible.”
Vicki Santo said after Ron passed away, she decided to give back to people living with diabetes by starting the Ron and Vicki Santo Diabetic Dog Alert Foundation.
Puppies trained to detect blood sugar smells practice their skills for up to a year before being places with families.
“While we’re waiting for the cure, at least we can help people living with diabetes have a very normal life,” Santo said.
Santo said her foundation has offered to pay the majority of the $19,500 price tag of a new service dog for Lila. That includes money for the trainer, dog food, veterinarian expenses and insurance.
Lila’s parents will pay $3,000 for their share of the cost.
“We’re trying our best to get this for our daughter to help keep her safe,” said Darcy Tellone. “With the help of this foundation we’re able to do that.”
If all goes as planned, Lila will have her own diabetic alert dog in about one year.
Darcy said the decision to take up Santos’ offer was an easy one.
“Well, we’re huge Cubs fans. So that’s a plus!” said Tellone. “Talking to her, she just put my nerves at rest.”