WHITE HOUSE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Five-year-old Steele Nelms has autism, but thanks to neighbors, and complete strangers, he’s about to receive a life-changing gift. 

Steele can sometimes run off. “We were all very distracted with the kids, and he snuck out the back door,” said Jenna Nelms, Steele’s mom. “We almost had a very tragic day.”

His parents, Matt and Jenna Nelms, did some research and found that service dogs can be a tremendous help to children with autism. But at $19,000, the cost was a heavy lift. 

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“It was a little overwhelming to think about how we should do it, when we should do it,” said Jenna. 

Even though she was reluctant to ask for help at first, Jenna eventually decided to post on Facebook.

“From there, the entire community just took off,” she said. “And, I didn’t even organize a single fundraiser. That’s how helpful they were.” 

White House held several fundraisers, and even local businesses, like Deja Moo, got on board. 

“We all got together and decided to do what we call A Day for Steele,” said Karl Hawes, Deja Moo owner. “It was amazing to see everybody come together like that.”

In 20 days, White House raised more than $19,000. Also this week, more good news as Steele was approved for his service dog. 

“Everybody exceeded our hopes and dreams with that, and really made it happen,” said Matt Nelms, Steele’s dad.

“There’s still a whole lot of good in people and community, and they really know how to make a little family feel special, that’s for sure,” said Jenna.

Steele got approved for his dog through a training facility in North Carolina called Highland Canine Training.

Children with autism are prone to run away. One skill trainers will teach the dog is called tethering. Essentially, the child is connected to the dog and a parent, and the dog can prevent Steele from, for example, running into the road when out in public. And that’s not all. The dog will also learn the child’s scent in case he does run off, the dog can find the boy.

Trainers say that the dog can also provide deep pressure therapy.

“A lot of kids like those weighted blankets that have autism. It kind of replicates that pressure, so if they are having a meltdown or a really hard day, put the dog across them and that pressure helps them calm down a bit,” said Debra Livingood, dog trainer at Highland Canine Training.

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Because of training and a waitlist, it will still be a few months before Steele receives his dog. But, the family says they are so grateful for the huge generosity White House showed their family.

The family wants to thank the following businesses and organizations that helped fundraise: Deja Moo, White House Produce and More, White House Nutrition, EJ’s, Colorado Grill, YayaNailz, International Tea & Coffee Company: White House, The Meat Sweats BBQ – White House, Pawtastic Pastries, Honey Run Boutique, The Jill Kelly Team at Chamberlain Realty, Karen Steele Woermann, Asi Hibachi & Sushi, The Pink Truck, Taste of Aloha Food Truck, Rojo’s Locos Tacos, and House of Paws.