Marklund Day School in Geneva
recently enjoyed a special visitor to a group of their middle and high school students: Bo, a nearly 2-year-old Golden Doodle. As he danced and a 13-year-old student squealed in delight, Sarah, the woman who made the visit happen, knew she’d chosen wisely.
Sarah made a winning bid in the silent auction at Anderson Humane’s Better Together Gala earlier this year. The package included restaurant gift cards, a sauna session, and other self-care goodies, but what most interested Sarah was the chance to arrange a Healing Paws therapy animal visit to a location of her choosing.
“Some of the Healing Paws dogs were at the gala and I just fell in love with them,” Sarah said. “I love animal therapy. It works.” So, as she contemplated all the silent auction packages to bid on, this one stood out. “I don’t need more stuff. This was such a cool opportunity and a chance to work with two great organizations.”
Oddly enough, Sarah had never been to Marklund when she chose it as the recipient of the Healing Paws visit. She’d heard about the great work the nonprofit organization does to educate and care for individuals with profound developmental disabilities. She even noticed Marklund’s Geneva campus on her drive to the gala, not knowing she’d soon be in contact with their volunteer department to arrange a meaningful visit.
On the day of that visit, Bo and his person, Cindy, visited a room of middle school students first. The students were mostly in wheelchairs, and Bo approached them one-by-one, offering sniffs, licks, and, at Cindy’s prompting, a few tricks.
As Bo approached one student, a teacher in the room asked, “Do you like the dog?” A shy smile spread across the student’s face. “We’re in a room of dog lovers,” the teacher explained, adding that most of the students have dogs at home.
“This visit provides nice variety in their day,” said Emily Hefner, Principal of the Marklund Day School in Geneva. “And animals bring a comforting sense of home.” She and her staff, many of them animal lovers themselves, were excited for the visit.
Bo and Cindy usually visit a local memory care facility, where he provides a similar comforting presence. “He has such a calm temperament and he’s so trainable,” Cindy said of her decision to get Bo certified as an Anderson Humane Healing Paws animal this past May. “Plus, it’s a good thing to do. Our family is all about volunteering.”
In a high school classroom, a female student plinked out a tune on a toy keyboard while Bo danced in figure eights around Cindy’s legs. The other students watched contentedly and the teachers laughed at Bo’s antics. In the back of the room, Sarah watched the gathering she initiated. “This is so great,” she said. “I’m so happy.”