CROWN POINT | The Crown Point Community Library hosted the Power Paws for Kids Reading to the Dogs event Saturday.
A highlight was a special performance of Butter the piano playing poodle who played “Jingle Bells” to the delight of his young audience who cheered enthusiastically.
Around the library, children took turns reading to the canines. All participants were given special treat bags and Power Paws for Kids blue t-shirts. A nonprofit association, Power Paws for Kids provides animal activity assistance programs.
According to the Power Paws website, a University of California Davis study determined students who read out loud to dogs improved their reading fluency skills by 12 percent over the course of a 10-week program. Study results indicated children who didn’t read to dogs showed no improvement.
Group leader Deborah Jones provided the following history: Power Paws for Kids, Inc., Animal Assisted Therapy has grown from a small group of volunteers to almost fifty members and their registered dogs. They have also added a number of interested boosters, as well as a corporate sponsor.
In the beginning, without funding, Power Paws held storefront fundraisers and received personal contributions.
From the beginning to where the organization is today, the road to incorporation and independence was a bumpy one that presented many obstacles. Undaunted, the group met and persevered successfully. They continued their visits to Hartsfield Village Care Center, much to the delight of the many patients. They also gained the confidence and support of staffs at the schools in the program: Solon Robinson, Eagle Park, Timothy Ball and Ensweiler Academy.
They have since added Lake Ridge Middle School in Calumet Township and Longfellow School in Gary to their roster of service.
Their programs that paired supervised therapy dogs, volunteers and students met with great successes in the areas of increased reading level scores, behavioral and attitude adjustments, self-confidence gains and self-image enhancements. It was thrilling to all involved to see the overall benefits of student growth.
Due to the original group’s lost financial backing to purchase rewards for success items given to children, the newly formed group pursued their own funding, which included storefront fundraisers and individual contributions, including substantial contributions made by their own members.
After their incorporation as a non-profit organization was granted June 16, 2010, the group then could apply for charitable grants. This proved to be a tremendous boost as grants were acquired from The Lake County Legacy Foundation and the Crown Point Community Foundation.
Since the date of their incorporation, the group has grown to Almost 50 animal-partnered adults, as well as involved boosters.
Serving for the first three years, the Board of Directors included President Deb Jones, Vice President Maryanne Battistini, Secretary Linda Peters and Treasurer Helen Drinski. Other original board members were Janet Ferguson, Kathy Miranda, Jean Turek, and the organization’s now Designated Program Coordinator Lina Rolland.
New officers were elected in April, 2012. They are President Deborah Jones, Vice President Elaine Drinski, Secretary Linda Bruene, Treasurer Helen Drinski, and Board Members Joni Monnich, Jean Turek, Linda Peters and Linda Olsen.
Dogs owned by participating volunteers are certified AKC Canine Good Citizen dogs, a requirement before any animals are accepted into the program. They are docile, gentle, loving and react happily to each other as well as to the children and adults met in their daily visits wherever they go. Breeds include poodles, chihuahuas, cocker spaniel, Burmese mountain dogs, labradors, labrador mixes, English spaniel, golden retrievers, Chinese shar’pei, German shepherds, springer spaniels, and numerous other mixed breeds. They even have a K-9 Officer Scott Beishuizen with his K-9 Gunner as part of their group today.
Even though the number of requests for the volunteers and the dogs has increased to the point that there are never enough to fulfill all, the present schedule for Power Paws includes visits to Hartsfield Village Care Center, libraries in Winfield, Crown Point, Munster, South Holland and Schererville/Dyer and four schools, including Timothy Ball, Eagle Park, Longfellow and Lake Ridge Middle School.
Power Paws for Kids, Inc., AAT has contributed immensely to the health and well-being of our communities. They have given selflessly many hours of time, talent, and treasure to continue this very successful endeavor!
Anyone interested in information to join the group can call the Membership Chairman, Kathy Miranda, at (219) 671-0076 or go to the website www.powerpawsforkids.org.