VFL helping 4-year-old in need of service dog


With all eyes on the Vols, one former men’s basketball player is showing he still has orange in his veins by helping a Northeast Tennessee boy get a service dog that will change his life.

Reporter Ashley Sharp from our sister station WJHL learned how the VFL and the community are helping Mason Bowling’s dream become a reality.

“We’ve known for a long time that he has a disability but we’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work,” Mason’s mother Danielle Bowling said. “And we’re in hopes that this will be it.” 

His family is working to get him a service dog that will help with his autism.

“I hope that he is understood better, by the dog calming him.”

A dog that would change their lives, someone to be his best friend as he has a hard time making friends and to search for Mason if he ever went missing. 

“He knows they’re gonna be like Scooby and Shaggy. They’ll be two in one,” Danielle said.

Now, the bowling family is asking the community for help to raise $25,000 dollars for Mason’s service dog.

“As a community, it’s not a lot of money,” said former Tennessee basketball player Damon Johnson. “As a community, we could come together and raise that in a heartbeat. But it takes a community to do that.”

Damon Johnson is a VFL who played basketball at the University of Tennessee in 1994. He now works for the Tennessee Chosen Few basketball program. Once he heard Mason’s story, he knew he had to help.

“I just think it’s important for us to come together, period. People need each other.”

Johnson is helping organize a charity basketball tournament for Mason on February 23. The event is  “Ballin’ for Autism”. All proceeds will go to the purchase of his service dog. 

“I hope that this brings attention to autism, attention to kids that need dogs, and attention to the fact that dogs are there to help kids in this situation,” Johnson said. 

So far they’ve raised over $1,000 dollars to help Mason pay for the service dog. They’re hoping to raise another $5,000 at the charity basketball tournament next month.

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