Boys Fighting Rare Disease Gifted Therapy Dogs

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What to Know

  • Hunter syndrome is a debilitating and eventually deadly disease as the body doesn’t produce a particular enzyme to act as a recycling center

  • A Pembroke Pines pet store owner is donating therapy dogs to boys in Broward County who suffer from Hunter syndrome

After hearing of a 4-year-old boy’s struggle with a rare and deadly genetic disease, a Pembroke Pines pet store owner felt inspired to give the boy the gift of unconditional love.

Sebastian Estevez is fighting a debilitating disease know as Hunter syndrome, which affects only about 500 children in the United States. Sebastian’s body doesn’t produce a particular enzyme that acts as a recycling center. The Broward County boy was normal when he was first born, until symptoms started to sneak up. He now has stiff joints and can’t make a fist.

He will eventually lose the ability to walk, talk or even recognize his own parents.

Luis Marquez, the owner of Petland in Pembroke Pines, said that as a parent, he felt compelled to help Sebastian.

South Florida Child Fighting Rare Deadly Syndrome

[MI] South Florida Child Fighting Rare Deadly Syndrome

“The owner, after talking to us, offered to donate a dog to every boy in Broward County who has Hunter Syndrome like Sebastian,” said Jennifer Estevez, Sebastian’s mother.

Sebastian’s family bonded with other parents here to form Project Alive, to raise awareness of the disease. Their goal is to raise $2.5 million for potentially life saving gene therapy trials.

“Our boys don’t have to die, and we’re $750,000 from bringing this trial to fruition,” Jennifer Estevez said.

But for right now, all Sebastian and his friend Michael can think about are their new puppies.

“Having a little dog to come home to every day; I think that will always love them and be there for them will be very special,” Jennifer said.

For this mother, nothing tops the generosity of this community.

“For a stranger to just reach out and do something so kind and selfless to help you and your family and just make your life a little bit happier is an amazing feeling,” said Danielle Pleffner, whose son Michael has Hunter syndrome. “I don’t think I can begin to describe the gratitude I have.”

For more information on Project Alive, visit projectalive.org.


1 Fort Lauderdale

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