We hope everyone’s new year is off to a great start! 2021 flew by, but there are so many things we are proud to say we accomplished last year.
This is by far one of the most exciting accomplishments in 2021! Due to COVID, Hand in Paw in-person visits and new Therapy Team training were on pause in order to maintain our volunteer’s health and safety. In March of 2020, we transitioned to virtual visits and our Therapy Teams brought comfort and joy to our community during the height of COVID, but we deeply missed visiting in-person.
Luckily by Summer 2021, COVID vaccinations became more readily available, and the risk of infection began to decline, thus allowing in-person visits to resume again! After hosting small, socially distanced refresher courses which introduced new health and safety protocol to our Therapy Teams, they were ready to resume their beloved visits in-person! Once our current Therapy Teams had gotten back in the groove of in-person visits, we were finally able to focus on training new ones! Hand in Paw’s first new volunteer workshop since 2020 was held on October 21, 2021.
Hand in Paw’s partnership with Children’s of Alabama goes back over 25 years! They were one of our very first program partners, and our Therapy Teams provide moments of peace and healing through gentle interactions each week across many units.
In 2021, we were able to expand our reach in Children’s Hospital even further by adding a new Therapy Team to the roster and by working with new units within their hospital! Hand in Paw’s 2021 Giving Tuesday campaign, which raised over $11,000, was also geared towards raising money to continue and expand our partnership with Children’s of Alabama! Hand in Paw now visits over 12 units at Children’s with the help of 7 Therapy Teams.
Hand in Paw’s School’s Best Friend Program works with Special Education teachers to enhance classroom instruction for exceptional students. Teachers incorporate Therapy Teams by teaching life skills, speech therapy, social skills, and occupational therapy through the use of a special “Activity Vest” the dog wears in the classroom.
In the Fall of 2021, one of Hand in Paw’s most dedicated volunteers, Lanette Steadman, hosted a dynamic School’s Best Friend training for 6 Therapy Teams interested in facilitating the program in additional classrooms in Birmingham. Lanette and her Therapy Team partner, Ginger, demonstrated many effective educational activities that incorporated the dog activity vest and provided helpful resources and guides for the trainees!
Health and Human Resource experts agree, that as COVID and related illnesses continue, the mental health of medical professionals will continue to be an area of needed attention. Thanks to a collaboration with UAB Hospital and the generous support of VP Funds and The Daniel Foundation of Alabama, Hand in Paw’s Wags for Wellness program was created to address this demand.
Wags for Wellness is a restorative program where specially trained Therapy Teams provide Animal-Assisted Therapy for healthcare professionals dealing with anxiety, depression, exhaustion, and despair. This program was created by Hand in Paw to express our gratitude and respect for the healthcare community that is taking care of people in this unpredictable and ongoing public health crisis. Wags for Wellness will be provided at no cost to healthcare workers now and post-pandemic.
In November of 2021, Hand in Paw partnered with Rebecca Mason of Love Them Train Them to assist and mentor our current and potential Therapy Teams. Rebecca is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and Certified Trick Dog Instructor (CTDI). She holds a Master's in Education and is a member of the Pet Professional Guild. We are excited to partner with her to support our current Therapy Teams and help to encourage and assist our potentials in training.
In addition to her consultation work with Hand in Paw, Rebecca will be offering dog training classes in the Lasker Training Center beginning January 2022. We always recommend many qualified dog training facilities in our community and now we can also offer the convenience of attending classes at the Hand in Paw campus in Avondale.
These accomplishments would not have been possible without the support of our dedicated volunteers, donors, and program partners. We are so thankful for a support system that believes and helps to achieve our mission of improving human health and well-being through Animal-Assisted Therapy! We know the year 2022 will be just as amazing thanks to you!