Donnie Kanter Winokur

When adoption breathes life into a new family, a devastating diagnosis soon challenges the love and strength that bound them together. As they learn to face the difficult road ahead, the loyalty and determination of a service dog brings hope to an uncertain future.

CHANCER: How One Good Boy Saved Another, an Amazon #1 Bestseller, is a surprising and compelling journey that has been featured around the globe in The New York Times Magazine, Guideposts, Marie Claire, Adoption Today Magazine and Reader’s Digest. Donnie is among the Amazon Top 50 Most Popular Authors in Biographies and Memoirs and the 100 Top Books in Parenting and Relationships. Her story will not only resonate with families who live with similar struggles but demonstrate the power of unconditional love and perseverance from a family and a dog that you will never forget.

In her inspiring and heartwarming memoir CHANCER: How One Good Boy Saved Another, Donnie Kanter Winokur shares the intimate story of how a golden retriever saved her family, bringing love and support to all of them – but most especially, her mentally challenged son. Seven years ago, The New York Times Magazine featured Winokur’s endearing and transformational journey in “Wonder Dog” becoming one of the top ten stories in 2012. Now for the first time, with raw honesty and unexpected humor, she is sharing the whole story.

Upon making the decision to adopt two infants from Russia, Donnie and her husband Harvey set out on a path that would lead them through both the greatest joy and deepest struggle of their lives. As Iyal and Morasha grow, it becomes clear that their son’s development is drastically behind his sister’s. Iyal is overwhelmed by the smallest tasks. Unable to focus, challenged by bizarre behaviors, Iyal’s hyperactive mind and constant need for attention could not easily be quelled. At the age of four, a diagnosis is given: fetal alcohol syndrome, a life-long disability. Though the diagnosis offers a name, the treatment is difficult to define and far from alleviates Iyal’s internal struggle and constant rages. As the family future hangs in the balance, Donnie comes up with an innovative, untested, four-pawed solution: a golden retriever service dog named Chancer. Specially trained to give Iyal the unique love he desperately craves, Chancer turns out to be what the entire family needed to stay–and grow–together.

Donnie Kanter Winokur doesn’t mind being upstaged by children or dogs, especially her son, Iyal, and his service dog, Chancer. Internationally renowned as a writer, speaker, and human rights advocate, Donnie has inspired, entertained, and educated a global audience for over three decades. CHANCER: How One Good Boy Saved Another, is her first full-length book.

A native of New Jersey, Donnie studied theater at Catholic University (“because being a nun was out of the question”) before transferring to Emory University in Atlanta, where she graduated with a degree in psychology. There her passion for drama evolved from repertory theater to commercials and voice-overs. After honing her skills writing and producing advertising campaigns for clients throughout the Southeast, she then created award-winning projects for Discovery, The Smithsonian Institute, and Broderbund/Random House.

In CHANCER: How One Good Boy Saved Another, Donnie shares her journey to adoptive parenthood along with her son’s devastating diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome, the most severe expression of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). She brings you into her world of developmental disabilities with a poignancy, unashamed honesty and often-irreverent humor, especially for a rabbi’s wife. After an exhausting pursuit of medications, therapies, and interventions only left Iyal more frustrated–and their family more desperate–Donnie tried something outside-the-box. Consequently, in 2008, Donnie’s son, Iyal, obtained an intelligent and irresistible ninety-pound golden retriever named Chancer, the first certified FASD assistance dog in the world.

A dynamic and in-demand speaker, Donnie is committed to preventing what she calls “the perfect storm,” the failed opportunity for our justice system to support challenged individuals in dire need of compassion and protection. She remains a dedicated champion for shifting our cultural paradigm and changing public misperceptions about marginalized individuals.

Donnie and her husband, Harvey, the founding rabbi of a reform synagogue, live north of Atlanta with Iyal and their daughter, Morasha. Their family unexpectedly lost Chancer at eleven years old, to an aggressive illness. But his successor, Quinn, also trained as an FASD service dog was well mentored by his older brother. Autumn, their cat, tolerates Quinn, while enjoying an occasional swat.

My son, Iyal, who is now 21 years old, has created a YouTube Channel that is entertaining and inspiring. Become a subscriber and see videos of Chancer and Quinn, our service dogs, and more!

Donnie Winokur – Trainer, Educator, Presenter

Donnie Winokur is an internationally known speaker, writer, producer and advocate who has spent the last 30 years in the communications arena. While Donnie’s interest is based on first-hand experience parenting her own son who is affected by fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), autism, mental illness and a host of differing abilities, her outreach extends to the international level in the field of developmental disabilities. Her passion for education in the area of self-esteem, sexuality, and challenges resulting from disability comes from years of innovative community building.

Donnie became nationally-known several years ago for her pioneering efforts in developing programs for healthy self-esteem and body image beginning with the Atlanta Jewish community. In 2000, she became the Founding, Executive Director of The Body and Soul National Institute™. In this capacity, she developed and facilitated programs for the six years the Institute flourished. Over time this educational resource was employed in secular communities, Women’s Shelters and workshops for women and girls living with a disability. The program was eventually adapted for the Harvard Center for Eating Disorders.

After learning of her adopted son’s organic brain damage and the accompanying physical, intellectual, mental and behavioral diagnoses, her attention and experience turned to a different kind of advocacy. From 2005 to 2009 Donnie worked diligently to develop and establish NOFAS Georgia, the first state affiliate of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS). She has since become an expert in training professionals on developmental disabilities, mental illness and FASDs: within the justice system, on crisis intervention, for professional service providers, parents and caregivers as well as special educators. As a consultant with Georgia State University’s Center for Leadership in Disability, she designed a Training Protocol for Parent Detailers to educate pediatricians in screening, assessment, and referrals for children presenting with autism and other developmental disabilities.

In 2009, Donnie Winokur began FASDEmpowered an educational outreach to bridge understanding between professionals working with persons exposed prenatally to alcohol and their families.