TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Ask Alex White about his dog, Hope, and he'll tell you quite simply, "I loved her more than anything."
Hope was the Shawnee Heights fifth grader's service dog and she spent more than a year by his side.
"She would keep me company when I was lonely," he says.
Alex has a progressive condition called hereditary spastic paraplegia. In the classroom, Hope would do what his muscles could not. His teacher, Emily Jakle, says Alex would place his papers in a tube so Hope could carry them to her and, if Alex fell, Hope would stand to help him up.
Tuesday night, people turned out at Topeka's Red Robin Restaurant to support Alex, because Hope no longer can.
Alex' mom, Mari, says it was a split second happening out of character for Hope. March 11, the animal saw another dog across the road, took off and was hit by a vehicle. She died in Mari's arms.
Among those on a school bus nearby was Alex' classmate, 10-year-old Saige Halseth, who turned her sadness into action.
"He's my friend and I just want to help him get a new (dog) because I know he's going to need one for the future," Saige said.
Saige wrote letters sharing Alex' story and started selling wristbands which say "Always Have Hope," in hopes of raising enough money to help Alex get a new service dog. She and her mom, Brie, even sought out Red Robin, which donated 15 percent of Tuesday night's sales.
Brie says she's proud of how Saige took on the task all on her own.
Mari agrees. She says her family didn't even know the Halseths very well until Saige decided to champion Alex's cause.
"I'm blown away," Mari says. "Thank you. A big, huge thank you."
Alex also appreciates it. The effort is taking his mind off the grief of losing his best friend.
"I'm quite happy. It's quite helpful," Alex said. "But it won't take everything away."
It could cost up to $30,000 to get Alex a new service dog with all the specialized training that's involved. People who wish to help can make donations to the Always Have Hope fund at any Alliance Bank location or by mailing to the bank at 2620 SW 6th Ave Ste A, Topeka, KS 66606.
Those wishing to purchase wristbands for $2 each may email email@example.com. Several area businesses also are selling them. Locations can be found on the Always Have Hope Facebook page, along with information on other benefits.