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.
Since then, Donnie has authored two award-winning children’s books and contributed to national and international magazines and journals, including Reader’s Digest, Guidepost, Marie Claire, and Adoption Today. In 2012, Donnie’s story was featured in “Wonder Dog” for The New York Times Magazine and became one of the ten most shared and searched for articles that year.
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.
Donnie seeks to find innovative ways in which to advocate for all who are touched by fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.