Our Programs + Your Donations = Mental and Physical Health
- It’s hard to believe that we’re only six days away from Canine Therapy Corps’ 25th anniversary on December 18! We are so fortunate that your generous donations have empowered our small but mighty organization to provide animal-assisted therapy to so many people throughout Chicago for two and a half decades. We hope you’ve been enjoying the stories of these impactful services through our #CTC25for25 campaign on Facebook and Twitter.
We have been overwhelmed by your generosity throughout this campaign. Many big-hearted supporters have flooded us with generous gifts, but we are still working to reach our $25,000 end-of-year goal. This is the fifth and final week of our email and social media campaign, so if you have been holding off on making your donation, now is the time!
You may be wondering where your generous donations go. Today, I’d like to share with you an overview of our programs—the core of our services which run year-round. Our service model is based around three main groups of participants, and to reach them, we partner with some of Chicago’s most trusted institutions to deliver these services.
The first group of participants we serve is physical rehabilitation patients. In these programs, Canine Therapy Corps therapy dogs are used to motivate individuals recovering from physical trauma or disabilities. This may mean throwing a ball, or holding a weighted hula hoop for a dog to jump through in order to rebuild muscles in an affected arm, or taking a large and sturdy dog for a walk to work on ambulation and standing balance. The fun and excitement of interacting with the dog takes the patient’s minds off the pain of the physical therapy which is occurring, without the patient even realizing it. This engaging distraction can motivate a patient who may have otherwise felt too tired to continue to perform for an extra hour of physical rehabilitation, helping them realize their true abilities and speeding their road to recovery. We currently deliver this type of rehabilitation to five institutions:
- Advocate Children’s Hospital – Park Ridge, with children who have chronic medical and developmental challenges.
- Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center’s Pediatric Developmental Center, with children who have chronic medical and developmental challenges.
- Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, with clients of all ages recovering from spinal cord injuries, head trauma, burns, and other physical trauma.
- RUSH University Medical Center, with adult inpatients in physical rehabilitation.
- Swedish Covenant Hospital, with adult inpatients recovering from strokes, joint replacements, and other physical trauma.
We also help participants working on their mental and behavioral health. In these programs, a therapy dog team works with the same participant over the course of six to ten weeks, instructing them on how to train the dogs on obedience, agility, and a new skill. I am currently a program leader of the Lawrence Hall program and can personally attest to the impact this curriculum has on the participants. Whether it is the individual with low self-esteem who gains the confidence they need by successfully handling a therapy dog, or the participant who learns patience and emotional management through the difficult process of teaching a dog a new trick, the therapy dogs help participants understand complex behavioral concepts through hands-on exercises under the supervision of a mental health professional. Program leaders, like myself, lead discussions at the end of each session to help participants relate these lessons to their daily life. Currently, Canine Therapy Corps partners with three institutions to deliver these psychosocial programs:
- Haymarket Center, with adults in a residential substance abuse recovery program.
- Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, with veterans recovering from a myriad of mental health issues, such as chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, and severe depression in an intensive outpatient program at the hospital’s Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center.
- Lawrence Hall, with children and adolescents who have severe emotional and behavioral challenges due to trauma, abuse, and/or neglect.
Finally, we work with children and young adults with autism spectrum disorders and other cognitive and developmental delays. In these programs, the dogs assist students in reaching their educational goals in a fun and engaging way. This may mean counting out treats for the dog to work on their arithmetic, selecting activities to do with the dogs using a choice board to work on decision-making, or identifying parts of the dog to work on their vocabulary. The kids light up when the dogs enter the room, and are motivated to work on their education goals without even realizing that it’s happening. Our partner institutions in this realm are:
- Ariella Joy Frankel Keshet Day School, with children and adolescents on the autism spectrum, some of whom also have other complex or chronic medical conditions.
- Easter Seals Therapeutic School and Center for Autism Research, with children and adolescents on the autism spectrum.
Students with autism use a choice board to pick what they would like to do with the therapy dogs and work on their decision-making skills.
Also of significance, we provide visitation at the following facilities:
- Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, visitation with children, who have suffered sexual abuse and assault, awaiting appointments with treating professionals at a multidisciplinary facility.
- Heartland Alliance, visitation with unaccompanied immigrant youth at two facilities, some of whom have emotional and behavior disorders.
- Northwestern Memorial Hospital, inpatient visitation in a variety of departments.
At each of our programs, neither the institutions, patients nor participants are charged for Canine Therapy Corps’ services—which is why Canine Therapy Corps so desperately needs your donations. In our lengthy history, we have always provided our services for free to those who need it most, and we do not receive any insurance reimbursements. These programs are 100% powered by the generous donations of foundations, companies, and individuals—like you—who see the value of our services and want them to continue. Your generous donation pays for the specialized, professional program leadership who staff these programs, the small support staff who keep our organization going, and valuable equipment used in programs. 74% of all gifts go directly towards program expenses like these.
With only a few weeks left this year, I hope you’ll keep Canine Therapy Corps top of mind for your 2016 giving. I feel so fortunate to be able to support the youth at Lawrence Hall, but I know that wouldn’t be possible without the support of caring people like you. Please donate today to help Canine Therapy Corps continue serving this incredibly vast array of individuals, and hopefully even more populations in need in the future.
Thank you for supporting our valuable programs,
Sara Bomze, MA
Clinical Program Leader
Canine Therapy Corps, Inc.