A Greencastle teen who received a national award for her work raising Seeing Eye dogs for others is now training a service dog for herself, and they will be heading off to Liberty University together this fall.
Hannah Regal, 18, a member of the Franklin County 4-H Seeing Eye Puppy Club, received the President’s Volunteer Service Award — complete with a congratulatory letter from Donald Trump — through the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program.
She joined 4-H in 2015 and has raised two puppies, first Quiggley then Lionel, both Labradors who have moved on in the Seeing Eye program. Now Hannah is working with her own service dog, Asa (known in the family as Asa Bear), a 4 1/2-month-old golden retriever.
Asa means healer or physician, according to the daughter of Bob and Melissa Regal, who was diagnosed at age 11 with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).
“This award is proof that my love for service outweighs the illness I have been battling for over one third of my life. I’m proud to have served my club, my community, my country, and my world in the last two years," Hannah said. "I look forward to continuing my work in service in the years to come.”
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, recognize middle level and high school students across America for outstanding volunteer service.
“The recipients of these awards demonstrate that young people across America are making remarkable contributions to the health and vitality of their communities,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. “By recognizing these students and placing a spotlight on their volunteer activities, we hope to motivate others to consider how they can also contribute to their community.”
POTS is a form of orthostatic intolerance that is associated with the presence of excessive tachycardia — rapid heartbeat — and many other symptoms upon standing, according to www.dysautonomiainternational.org.
Her older sister, Haleigh, also has the syndrome, but it is different for each person. Haleigh's was not debilitating and the 23-year-old is now a long-term special education substitute teacher at Summitview Elementary in Waynesboro.
POTS can appear after trauma, in Hannah's case a foot injury suffered playing soccer.
Unlike her sister, "I fell completely off the map," Hannah said, explaining her heart beat so fast, she could not stand for the first month or two and she still uses a wheelchair when traveling. "It's an invisible illness, you don't look like you are sick."
Because of her health, Hannah has been homeschooled since sixth grade. She attended the Greencastle-Antrim School District's Franklin Virtual Academy, is currently taking online classes at Hagerstown Community College and will walk with the G-A High School Class of 2018 as an honors graduate.
The 4-H Seeing Eye Puppy Club was a way for her to do something in the community, get involved and gain some independence, according to Hannah, who also is active at Antrim Brethren in Christ Church.
"She was very shy," her mother explained. "She's grown a lot as a person and it's brought her out of her shell."
"And I wanted a dog," Hannah said.
"There are two kinds of people who walk into a room full of dogs — those who are intimidated and ones that say, "Yeah!'" according to Hannah.
She explained 4-H club members get their dogs around 7 weeks and keep them for 14 to 16 months.
The dogs start with potty training, basic obedience like sit and rest and to always go to their owner's left side.
"The dog moves with you, you don't move with the dog," Hannah explained.
The dogs move on to more advanced training through The Seeing Eye Inc. in Morristown, New Jersey.
The Regals visited on Family Day and out of hundreds of dogs, Quiggley was selected for one of the demonstrations.
"It was the best day of my life," said Hannah.
"I couldn't have Asa if I hadn't had Seeing Eye puppies," Hannah continued.
Animals have an innate sense of problems in a person's body, especially when they are bonded. Asa is going to warn Hannah she needs to slow down or lie down.
"Asa put everyone at ease for me going to college," Hannah said.
She plans to major in business administration "because I wanted something that gave me vast opportunities."
Asa will fit right in because he likes to wear a business-like bow tie on his collar.