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Anna & Dalma: 4 Paws dog to head to the ‘Down Under’
XENIA, Ohio – Anna is an artistic, smiling, loving 10-year-old, but that’s not how she was when her adoptive mother Doris Dehm found her when she was just 10 days old in a Chinese orphanage.
More than nine years ago, Doris, originally from Germany, was a volunteer at an orphanage in China. She was living there while her husband, Burkhard, worked. From the moment that she laid eyes on the tiny, malnourished baby, she knew that all she needed was “food and love.”
“I saw her—she looked at me and I thought she was gorgeous,” says Doris.
She remembers how the 10-day-old baby was in 000-sized clothing, refused solid food and was not developing the older she got. She wasn’t making any eye contact, nor was she making any attempt to speak.
Doris and Burkhard decided to adopt the fragile child, however, it wouldn’t be so easy—not if the Chinese government had anything to do with it, she says. Doris says that while fostering Anna, she wrote over 200 letters.
And although Anna wasn’t a planned child for the older couple with two grown daughters (28 and 30), when the little girl was 2 ½ years old, still only weighing 14 lbs., she was finally an official Dehm. And even then, she was only eating three bottles of powdered milk.
She was diagnosed with PTSD, institutionalized autism, anxiety, expressive language disorder, sensory degradation disorder and extreme far-sidedness.
Doris says she wasn’t going to give up on the little girl who had stolen her heart in that orphanage. Many doctors told her, “there’s nothing more” she could do, not much hope. But she refused to let those words be the end all to her daughter’s thirst for survival and for life.
“She’s doing amazing things now,” says Doris in a thick accent, a mix between German and Australian. In fact, the youngster is learning to talk, thanks to neurological reorganization therapy that she’s been receiving in Bend, Ore.
In therapy, she learns music, speech, and movement and basically allows Anna to relearn everything in stages from the age of newborn, since she missed a lot of that as an infant, says Doris.
Now they don’t just celebrate birthdays, they celebrate every milestone for Anna, like brushing her teeth or tying her shoe… or saying her first word, “momma.”
After trying to give her everything that she needed for years and still being shut down to them, Doris remembers that moment when she spoke and says, it was “just amazing for the first time she opened up.”
But the first time that Anna kissed Doris, was an even more of a momentous occasion than even hearing the word, “momma.” She was 9 years old and Doris had put a blanket over her daughter… and Anna kissed her.
“That was her starting to care,” says Doris. “She had no empathy from infancy [so it took her longer.]”
They have lived in Oregon for the past four years for Anna’s therapy and will be moving back to Australia in July 2013 for Burkhard’s work.
Now, when they move back to Australia, they’ll have Dalma, a rambunctious Goldendoodle, in tow as well.
“Dalma makes her calmer,” says Doris of their brand new service dog from 4 Paws for Ability. However, during their first meeting on Day 1 of class, Anna pushed away Dalma—but by Day 11, she was laying next to the cottony pup, with her hand out, gently lying on her soft fur.
After her traumatic childhood, Anna tends to harm herself with hitting and scratching her own skin. She is very sensitive, because she was not only malnourished but also mal-nurtured at a very young age. She easily has meltdowns and sleeping problems.
“If there’s anything not right, she thinks it’s her fault.”
She is also very sensory-oriented. As a baby, she didn’t have soft things around her, nor did she have anything to cuddle, or hold onto, says Doris. But now, with Dalma, she has her soft fur to touch and it truly seems to soothe the young, slowly maturing girl. Dalma, they hope, will pull Anna out of her own isolation.
Having a child with a disability, the 57-year-old mother says, is “all-consuming.” Nothing compares to having a child who doesn’t sleep, is needy and the worry is exhausting, she admits.
But there’s a lot inside of Anna, her mom says—including her artistic nature. She loves to draw and paint and Doris carries pictures of her artwork on her phone to pull out and show off, the proud mother that she is. Plus, she says, Anna is very funny, has a great sense of humor.
“She has a giggle that lightens up a room… just gorgeous.”
“There’s a lot inside of Anna that the anxiety doesn’t allow it to come out. There’s a lot there and I want to foster that,” says Doris, who believes that Dalma will draw more of Anna’s spirit and creativity out into the open for everyone to enjoy.
The duo is like two peas in a pod, says Doris.
“When they walk together at the mall, she’s more grounded and calmer. She give us a little of freedom too. And she’s free with the dog.”
“It gives us hope for the future—we want her to be as independent as possible. We want her to be as much as she can be.”
“Dalma’s bringing her out of her cocoon,” says Doris about Anna who played ball with her new dog this week.
With soft, shiny, black hair and purple, square-framed glasses resting upon her nose, she smiles, as she looks down at her new four-legged BFF.
“Dalma’s a friend,” says the shy, soft-spoken girl, who, on graduation day at 4 Paws for Ability, wore matching red, jeweled bows as her new furry, fluffy friend—a friend that will give her a brand new life, says her mom.
Read her story about adoption: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2005/09/19/1126982001940.html
Story & photos: by Jessica Noll-Korczyk
XENIA, Ohio – Eager footwork was split between tap-dancing paws and pitter-pattering little toes from one side of the 4 Paws for Ability training floor to the other. It was graduation day for 11 dogs and their kids.
“I don’t think we were ready at all. It’s been a hard, wonderful experience,” said Kim, Cole and Chip’s mom.
From the moment that Cole set eyes on Chip during first-day introductions at 4 Paws for Ability, he wanted nothing more than to touch him, pet him, love him. His arms stretched outward to the max, as he saw his black Labrador Retriever being led to him. His eyes filled with excitement and utter joy as Chip trotted right up to him. Sitting atop his mom’s lap, Chip gave Cole a quick lick on his hand, as if to say, “Hello buddy!”
Anna, who wasn’t so sure of her new dog, Dalma, the day they met, was wearing matching red, jeweled bows, with Dalma on graduation day. Calm and relaxed the young Asian girl with shiny black hair will be returning back to Australia in July with her parents and Dalma. (Read about Anna and Dalma, in March’s Paw of the Class feature.)
“We think she’s the most gorgeous girl,” said Doris of Dalma, her family’s newest, white and fluffy addition.
Another beauty, Calypso, aka Maxie, was a beautiful white-furred cottony Goldendoodle who welcomed William, his new boy to 4 Paws for Ability, with what can only be described as a smile, and a tremendous tail-wagging. As William sat on his mom’s lap, he held his hands up and away from the large dog sitting patiently at his feet. As Karen, William’s mom, hand-fed the eager assistance dog treats, William too, slowly put his hand into the baggie full of Calypso’s favorite food, and doled out one piece at a time for his new partner—letting out small, quiet giggles as her tongue lapped his fingers while feeding her.
“’Thank you’ just doesn’t cut it. It’s been wonderful… you’re a whole new family to us,” said William’s mom.
Beautiful Golden Retriever and Miami University “student” Champagne, was well-loved from the beginning by her tiny, blonde boy Jacob. As they greeted each other, Jacob stood next to his new girl, who stood at face level to him. His tiny hands reached out and touched her soft, golden fur, as she looked over her shoulder at him, her brown eyes seemed to sparkle.
Not all first meetings were so quick to bond.
Sam was a bit leery of this bubbly, black Labrador Retriever, Chili. He reached down to pet his new dog, only to be licked and slobbered on, which resulted in a disgusted, puckered-up face. But that disgust soon turned to a special bond by graduation, and apparently a new fondness for all black dogs.
“Every black dog is ‘Chili’ to Sam,” said mom Nancy, to a room full of graduates, who immediately began to chuckle.
There was absolutely no hesitation for Joseph when meeting his black Labrador Retriever, Parfait. As soon as the spunky, sleek dog was led to his boy, the petting, licking and treat nibbling commenced. Joseph wrapped his arms around Parfait’s neck, who, in turn, leaned in to lick his nose, mouth, cheek, ear, or whatever he could reach to reciprocate the love he was getting from his new human BFF.
Navin, a Golden Retriever, was greeted by, not only his new boy Ryan, but also his entire family, including a little sister. Everyone was overjoyed to meet him for the first time and he became so relaxed that he laid belly-up on the floor, mouth open, tongue hanging out, getting lots of love from his boy.
The most common word from Cayden was, “Cheese!” He posed a lot for the camera, especially with his new best friend, Neo, a Golden Retriever. On the first day of class, the small blonde literally, took the reigns and led his new four-legged friend around the training floor. It was the moment that allowed his mom to let out a much-needed sigh of relief.
“They mean everything to the kids—but mean a lot to [us] parents too… peace of mind,” said Angela, Cayden and Neo’s mom.
Gabe was quiet on his first day, and at first didn’t seem to enjoy the company of his new furry pal, Poppers, a black Labrador Retriever. Although Popper enjoyed the many treats he was receiving from the remainder of his new family. But about 20 minutes into the first day, Gabe was sitting crossed-legged on the floor, leaning down and kissing Popper’s head, which was in his lap.
Arielle and Israel graduated with Slider, a black Labrador Retriever, and were like two kids in a candy store, getting their certificates with their dog on graduation day—a sight too sweet for words.
Alyssa and Pinoy, also known as Elmo, graduated with smiles. As Alyssa stood next to her mom, she leaned up, giving her mom a kiss on the cheek, with one hand on her new best friend.
It was a day full of kisses, tears and hugs—hugs from the children to the dogs and from parent to parent. The nervousness of the first day of class had left their expressions and was replaced with laughter and many, many smiles from ear to ear, from one side of the classroom to the other.
-Photos & story by Jessica Noll-Korczyk
In early February, 4 Paws was asked to take part in the ReelAbilities Film Festival. ReelAbilities, which is the largest film festival in the country to showcase the artistic talents and life stories of people with disabilities, began in New York in 2007. But in 2011, Cincinnati became the first place to broaden the festival’s influence by making it a multi-city event.
For its second year running, ReelAbilities plans to increase its reach with a fervor that emphasizes the shared human experience. The festival brings community members together to view award-winning films by and about people with disabilities, all while creating a dialogue and providing a platform for storytelling and educational panels that promote understanding and inclusion.
Karen and Piper were invited to the premiere event on March 9, at the Freedom Center in Cincinnati as VIPs, along with Matthew Cook, Service Dog, Potter, and mom, Mary (September 2008 class). Jeremy also attended the premiere event.
Then, on March 14, Kelly Camm, Carol Burke and Service Dog, Pumpkin (December 2010 class) and the Cook family attended the free screening called, “Praying with Lior,” about a child with Down Syndrome held at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The Cooks were also part of the panel after the film, and Matthew proudly introduced and spoke of Potter.
Special thanks to the Cook and Burke families for representing 4 Paws so well.
WAYNESVILLE, Ohio – Big and lanky Boss (Bobo) bounded toward his mom, as his long black and gray, tousled fur swayed from side to side. His tongue darted out to saturate her face. Jaki Waggamon was the first human mom this furry, fun-loving, excitable puppy—who had more than tripled in size—had ever known, and now it was time for him to graduate and move to his new home with his fur-ever family and girl Danielle.
It was the first time that husband and wife, Nick and Jaki Waggamon of Waynesville, Ohio, had experienced the graduation of one of their foster pups. The young couple has been a foster home to two 4 Paws for Ability dogs since February 2012, and intend to be lifetime volunteers, she said.
While currently, they have no children… they do have little ones running around the house.The high school sweethearts and graduates of Ohio Northern University, both jumped headfirst into their careers—and because of their love of traveling, said Jaki, it was difficult to convince her husband that they should have a full-time puppy at home. But fostering a puppy is a happy alternative and compromise. Jaki gets a puppy, and they both still get to travel.
“Puppies are such lovers!” said Jaki. “They’re so little and cute, and they just want you to love them as much as they love you—which they do immediately and unconditionally.”
What started out as her wanting a puppy of her own, turned into a “phenomenal opportunity to do something much more amazing,” said Jaki, who for a while was looking for something she could do to give back, but nothing until 4 Paws for Ability had jumped out at her.
“4 Paws does so much good with the resources they have—it takes a lot of people, time, money, treats, and toys to pull off a single service dog placement.”
“We are fortunate to have such a wonderful thing happening right here in Ohio—people cross the country, and sometimes even the globe to get here, for the opportunity to have an ability-filled life with their service dog partner.”
Fostering soon-to-be service dog puppies has been a learning experience for her and the puppies. The ability to see them experience something new for the first time is by far her favorite part. Take laundry for example… she chuckled.
“So far both of our fosters have been terrified of our laundry hampers—it’s unexplainable to us, but something about them must be very scary for a little puppy. Let’s face it, I’m scared of the dirty laundry pile too, so who can blame them!”
Together, Jaki and her husband have fostered both Focus, a Golden Retriever from the Luxury Car Litter and Boss aka Bobo, a Goldendoodle from the Pirate Litter.
Bobo, her first foster puppy, never wanted her out of his sight, and would lie on her feet until you were ready to move on to the next thing.
Focus, her current pup, is an “adventurous little fellow, who loves to jump up on the ledge by the fireplace and act like he is king of the living room.”
Every day there is something different to laugh and smile about, she said.
“Once Bobo knocked the broom over in the kitchen. When I heard it, I went to find him and he was nowhere to be found—because he put himself in his kennel! Focus knocked down the Christmas tree, but instead of self-mediating, he was climbing into the branches when I found him! Both situations were worthy of a good laugh by all!”
Bobo graduated during the December 2012 class, finding his fur-ever home with his girl Danielle in Vandalia, Ohio.
“It is a beautiful experience. It’s fun to guess what the dog will be trained for in the end, based on the personality and strengths they develop while they’re with you. Nothing beats seeing them at graduation. That’s when the whole picture really comes together,” said the 25-year-old, who described that day as, “amazing, awe-inspiring, beautiful, wonderful, remarkable, overwhelming, incredible, miraculous, extraordinary.”
“I literally cannot describe the joy I felt when I saw Bobo and his family for the first time—it is an understatement to say it was beautiful.”
And as excited as Bobo was to see Jaki and Nick, she said that they could already tell how much he had bonded with his new family.
“We were really blessed—Bobo’s forever momma keeps us well updated with pictures and stories. Again, the joy of this moment is so much more powerful than the brief sadness of sending Bobo back to 4 Paws. The joy is continuously multiplied as we hear about Bobo’s new achievements with his partner. I mean, he gets to go to school… How neat is that?” said Jaki.
As hard as it is, returning the foster puppies to 4 Paws is part of the job that she signed up for, as do all the foster homes.
While it’s what Jaki called, “dreadful, awful, heart-breaking, terrible, horrible, painful, distressing, tear-jerking,” it’s only for a brief moment in the overall scheme of life and what these dogs are meant to go on and do for children with disabilities, she said.
“It would be silly to think that after six months it would be easy to send them back on their way—after all you’re not just housing and feeding a puppy, but loving him and taking him everywhere you go! Even knowing they have a greater purpose, it’s still hard.”
Through that heartache, the best advice she received as a foster mom was from a family who was on their 18th 4 Paws puppy: “Get another one. Who can be sad when they’re busy chasing around a new ball of fur and energy that’s excited to explore their new surroundings?”
So she did.
But Jaki isn’t just giving the puppies something that they need… they are giving her a better understanding of the world and the good that is in it—as well as the unconditional love that a dog can provide in trying times.
“They are cuddle-bugs, and truly loving beings. In an amazing feat of human-like understanding, Focus, the adventurous and hyper puppy, cuddled on the couch with me the whole day after someone broke into my car. Nothing important was taken, but someone was in my driveway in front of my house inside my car—my puppy was apparently grateful for the extra day I spent at home, instead of work, and spent the morning cuddling and doing my favorite tricks.”
Both of her foster puppies have also provided the opportunity to spread education about service dogs and conditions that they might one day assist with like autism, diabetes and seizures. They have also given Jaki new insight to the world we live in, at a time, she said, “when we are seeing and speaking of a broken society, we typically look and find the bad and often only the bad.”
But once again, foster puppies to the rescue!
“On Christmas Eve, my husband and I decided to stop at a church on our travel route between my parents’ and our home. We were greeted by a gentleman that seemed confused when I asked if my service puppy was welcome and said, ‘Of course!’ We sat near a family who was more interested in meeting our puppy and learning about what he would do, than about the fact that there was a dog in their church. We were surprised to hear, ‘and peace be with your little friend,’ when the congregation began greeting those around them. There is good in the world—we just have to be it if we want to see it.”
In the end, Jaki said, fostering is a blessing for her and her husband.
“I wish I were as happy about anything as these foster puppies are when they see me after work. A house with a puppy is a crazy, disorganized, frantic house, but it is a very happy home!”
Fostering puppies, however, is not for everyone Jaki warned.
“It must be said—puppies are a lot of work!”
From scheduling potty breaks and playing to teething and socializing, Jaki said it’s a balancing act that she and her husband somehow manage among the hectic atmosphere that is their home. But that chaotic world of puppy-raising is an experience she wouldn’t give up, however, that doesn’t mean she wishes for just a little help…
“If I were granted one wish, it would be that every puppy was born with the instinct to heel gently next to his human—but instead their instincts seem to be to run and to chase leaves! All of these things take a lot of work and a lot of time. Even so, I’m sure I’d be lost without a puppy romping around!” Jaki laughed.
“If life’s not fun, I don’t think you’re doing right.”
-By Jessica Noll-Korczyk
A brand new, furry, cuddly, ball of energy and excitement who needs love, attention and a warm home… what could be better than a fluffy, jumpy, tongue-hanging-out smiling puppy? Not much compares to being a foster home with 4 Paws for Ability.
If you’re interested in fostering one of the 4 Paws for Ability’s service dogs in-training, contact Karen Shirk at Karen@4PawsForAbility.org.
You can become a foster home or help us place more service dogs, DONATE NOW!
Creativity meets generosity
MONTVILLE, N.J. – Her generosity all started with a text that Sophie Guss received at school one day from her mom who was watching The Today Show. She said that her mom knew it was something that would intrigue her.
The Today Show was featuring 4 Paws for Ability. And it was perfect timing for the artistic 16-year-old sophomore at Montville Township High School in Montville, NJ.
“I had been trying to find an organization to get involved in and as soon as I heard about 4 Paws, I knew I wanted to help,” said the creative, self-proclaimed animal lover, whose family has always had rescue dogs as pets. Kenzie, a hound mix, is the Guss family’s current and third rescue dog.
“I feel good about helping these dogs who might not otherwise have homes. They give people unconditional love. There’s nothing like walking in my house knowing my dog will be so excited to see me!”
Guss said that she also loves children—which goes hand-in-paw with the mission of 4 Paws for Ability. In fact, she volunteers in an afterschool program in a nearby town with young children.
Helping children and helping dogs is the two-fold combination that made this venture kismet, as Guss visited 4PawsForAbility.org. After a few quick clicks of her mouse, she knew that this was something worthy of her time and talent.
“When I read the children’s stories, it made me want to help out,” said Guss. “I decided to do this because I love children and animals and I was looking to help an organization that could combine these two interests. When I heard about 4 Paws, it was perfect.”
She designed and sold tribute cards for $5 each.
“I emailed friends and family and told them about 4 Paws for Ability. It was nice when several people forwarded my email to their friends because they wanted to support me and your organization.”
She sold packs of four cards at $20 and raised $400 for 4 Paws for Ability.
4 Paws for Ability isn’t the first organization that Guss has donated her time or efforts. She cut her hair for Locks of Love twice and when she was 13, she raised about $1,000 for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
Earlier this year, she participated in a walk-a-thon for the rescue organization that saved her dog Kenzie, and raised $375.
While the do-gooder teenager hasn’t yet visited Xenia to see the dogs and children whom she is helping with her efforts, she hopes to plan a trip to 4 Paws for Ability soon.
“Hopefully in the future, I can come. I will be looking at colleges next year, so maybe if I am nearby, I can visit,” said Guss.
Do you have a fundraising idea that you’d like to share with 4 Paws for Ability?
Tell us! Or DONATE NOW!
-By Jessica Noll-Korczyk
Click on the images below to see the card’s interior/exterior designs.
XENIA, Ohio — 4 Paws for Ability is proud to announce the partnership with Pay It Forward (PIF) Apparel, LLC, in an effort to Pay it Forward.
The promotion will last year round, starting in March, then again in May, September and November.
“We are thrilled to partner with PIF! At 4 Paws for Ability, we strive to ‘pay it forward’ every day in the work that we do,” said Karen Shirk, 4 Paws for Ability founder and executive director.
PIF T-shirts cost $23 each and 4 Paws for Ability will receive 25 percent of each shirt sold. That means 4 Paws for Ability will obtain nearly $6 per shirt to benefit more children with disabilities. That is after all, what 4 Paws for Ability is all about! In fact, over the past 15 years, 4 Paws for Ability has placed approximately 700 service dogs with children with disabilities.
“Our goal has always been to enrich the lives of children with disabilities by the training and placement of quality, task trained service dogs to provide increased independence for the children and assistance to their families. And we think cause-marketing with PIF will prove to work hand-in-hand with our everyday intentions as a team,” continued Shirk.
Today, placing approximately 100 dogs a year, 4 Paws For Ability is the largest organization whose primary mission is to place service dogs with children and one of the only organizations to have no minimum age requirements. We place almost every type of service dog available and never turn down a child who does not “fit” into one of the traditional service dog categories. Our Multipurpose Assistance Dog is a dog that encompasses all those children who do not fit into the traditional service dog types and/or who have disabilities that fit into more than one type of dog trained.
Many of the families who come to 4 Paws do so asking if we can help their child who may have a disability not addressed by any of the service dog agencies they have located.
While some children, for example children who have only the diagnosis of Autism, fit clearly into a specific type of service dog, (The Autism Assistance Dog), many of our families have children with multiple issues, or diagnoses that do not seem to be addressed directly in the typical service dog categories, for example Down’s Syndrome, Fragile X, Apraxia, ADHD, a variety of mental health diagnosis, life threatening medical illnesses such as cancer, and medically frail children…to name a very few.
For additional information or for interview opportunities, contact Jessica Noll-Korczyk at 937.768.9096 or email to Jessica4Paws@aol.com.
4 Paws for Ability is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to place quality service dogs with children with disabilities and veterans who have lost use of limbs or hearing; help with animal rescue, and educate the public regarding use of service dogs in public places. 4 Paws for Ability relies on the generosity of individuals, as well as corporations, and accepts donations for operating expenses, training, food, toys, training supplies, medication, and our building fund.
4 Paws for Ability is located at 253 Dayton Ave., in Xenia, Ohio. Visit us at www.4PawsForAbility.org, “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
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-By Jessica Noll-Korczyk
EUGENE, Ore. – A red, construction paper, handmade card simply says: “Happy Holidays” with a black-ink pen-drawn paw with four toes. At the top, the words: “to: Alexijanae G.” It’s a birthday present that Cade Jacobson was proud to give to someone else this year.
In lieu of birthday gifts, 10-year-old Cade, gave a gift to someone else this year when blowing out his candles—a gift to fellow youngster, Alexijanae Kanani Oliveira-Golden.
Alexijanae has had medical issues since she was born, said her parents. She suffers from a rare disorder called Schizencephaly, and Texas Children’s Hospital diagnosed her with Dyskinetic quadriplegic cerebral palsy in 2008. She and her family started the fundraising process for a 4 Paws for Ability service dog. Cade wanted to help.
In fact, that’s what his skating-themed birthday party was all about.
Instead of Transformers, video games, or an iPad, Cade asked his party guests to bring a donation toward making one little girl’s dream of obtaining a 4 Paws for Ability service dog come true.
There was skating and cake and lots of happy kids, including one little boy who was turning 10 and giving back.
Inside the red card to Alexijanae read: “For my birthday, I raised $500 to send to you so you can hopefully have enough or close enough to get a service dog. Sincerely, Cade J. in Eugene, Ore.” The opposite page read: “Have a happy holiday too and a good New Year’s.”
But that wasn’t the only gift he sent to the girl, who just turned 10 this year as well.
Inside the holiday card to Alexijanae was a colored piece of artwork… a vibrant bug, full of pink, blue, green, purple and orange-colored crayon strokes covered the page freshly ripped from one of his coloring books. At the bottom read: “To Alexijanae From Cade.”
Alexijanae’s mom said that she needs a service dog more than anyone will ever know, as they face challenges every day. The little girl, like most, wants independence, freedom, and she wants to dance and be in gymnastics. She wants to do her own dressing and take her own shoes off . . . but at the moment she cannot do any of those things that most 10-year-olds take for granted. But now, thanks to Cade’s generosity and his party guests’ support, she is well on her way to getting that furry best friend and service dog she so desperately needs.
By Jessica Noll-Korczyk