June 2018 marked the official launch of the new non-profit, Frankie + Evan. The organization is dedicated to providing service animals for individuals with Autism. Founded to enhance the daily life of children with Autism, the non-profit is an essential part of Sweet Rolls’ culture.
Dreaming to fulfill his purpose as a father, husband and beacon of autism awareness, Dion Grossnickle began the non-profit organization, Frankie + Evan.
“My purpose in life is not work. My son, Evan, was diagnosed with Autism at one and a half years old, so that also became a purpose in my life...to spread awareness about Autism and to help children and adults with Autism be accepted.”
A few years ago, Dion, his wife Katrina, and their two sons, Landon and Evan, traveled to Orlando, Florida for vacation. While in Disney, Dion and Katrina took their eyes off their stroller to purchase a balloon. When they turned back, it was a parent’s worst nightmare. Evan was gone. Evan’s inability to understand fear or communicate caused the world to stand still for the entire family. For 27 minutes, Evan was lost wandering the most magical place in the world.
That day, their lives changed.
Without fully understanding how an animal could provide a sense of freedom for not only Evan, but the entire family, Dion and Katrina agreed to purchase a service dog. $20,000 and multiple obstacles later, Frankie became a part of the family.
Enthusiastically, Dion explained the moment his son showed his first signs of communication during their first training session with Frankie in Walmart. After his son walked in front of them with a sense of freedom while attached to Frankie, the family was shocked at what happened next.
“He’s pointing. He’s pointing. And that’s a big deal. Then out of nowhere he said the words, ‘That way.’”
“We’ve NEVER heard him talk.”
Pointing and speaking are signs of communication that children with Autism rarely use. Thanks to Frankie and his deligent trainer, Evan now has a voice.
Frankie continues to change Evan’s life while he goes to school with him, accompanies the family at restaurants, and helps Evan sleep through the night. Just as a service dog has provided a level of comfort, a sense of freedom, and peace for the entire family, Dion created the non-profit as an opportunity to help children on a local level experience the same benefits.
“That is my story, and I’d like to pay that forward.”
In every Sweet Rolls location, you will find a distinct blue light among the many traditional light bulbs. Why the blue light bulb? When a contractor broke one of the bulbs while installing it, Dion’s son, Evan, was sitting in the corner. And that was the “ah hah” moment. Acting not only as a conversation-starter about how autism came into Sweet Rolls’ lives, the blue bulb now acts as a beacon of autism awareness within the community.
Once a year in April, every Sweet Rolls location will participate in a non-profit fundraiser to help raise funds for local children with autism. The funds raised will be allocated to providing children with a service animal to help enhance their daily lives.