Nick the Dog Candy: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

Augusta, Wes. (WEAU) – “Really, the only difference is that they can do almost everything a non-disabled person can do. They just need a little help.”

In 2003, Jennifer Haines’ son Nick was born two and a half months premature. At 11 months old, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

“Nick has been in a wheelchair since he was probably two and a half or three,” Haines said. “He got his first electric chair at three years old. Nick has a very strict tone. He started physical therapy at six months old and has continued in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy throughout his life.”

While the diagnosis changed her family forever, she says it was for the best.

However, as Nick grows older, Jennifer is made aware of the potential snag he may face.

“Statistics show that about 70 to 75% of individuals with disabilities are unemployed,” Haines explained. “And so I said to myself, I don’t want that to happen to my son.”

Nick and his mom took matters into their own hands, creating more than just a job.

“Well, Nick loves baking, and so do I. So, I posted a blurb on Facebook and said, ‘Hey, Nick makes dog treats, does anyone want some?’,” Haines reflected. “We got a lot of responses, we thought. , that this might work for you. So that’s how we started.”

Four years later, “Nick’s Dog Treats” has grown faster and bigger than mother and son could ever imagine.

In 2020 alone, they went from carrying all of their natural products in one store to 21 stores. Now daily baking treats, they’ve shipped to all 50 states and beyond. They’ll be opening their own storefront in Augusta this fall.

“My goal is when we have the shop so we can hire individuals with disabilities,” Haines said.

“I think it worked really well for me,” said Nick Napolitano, creator of Nick’s Dog Treats. “I love him.”

Nick’s Dog Treats also created the opportunity for Nick to make new friends as Jaidan. Jidan suffered a traumatic brain injury at the age of 11 after a fever of 107 degrees.

Jaydan’s mom, Jeanine Nugent, says it’s amazing to see her daughter light up when she’s given the responsibility of making dog treats.

“Jaidan came over and started cutting shapes,” Nugent said. “Jaidan would prep the dough and Jaidan would roll it out again and she would do everything independently.”

With each push came a new realization.

“Jane and I are kind of perfectionists, which is really hard,” Nugent explained. “If she and I were doing these products ourselves exactly the things we were looking for, it’s okay that the little imperfections aren’t quite as smooth. They’re a little chipped on the side. Maybe that little imperfection means there was a lot of extra love that was put into it.” It is imperfectly perfect.”

Haines says she wouldn’t change Nick for the world.

“It’s perfect for me the way it is.”

But she would change the world for him. All with the help of three simple ingredients: oatmeal, peanut butter, and a banana.

Plus a lot of love.

For more information on Nick’s Dog Treats, click here.

To learn more about Jedan’s business in the field of lotions and essential oils, click here.

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