Page 10 - 20140315-TulsaPets-SWF-Linked

This is a SEO version of 20140315-TulsaPets-SWF-Linked. Click here to view full version

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »
10 TulsaPets
March/April 2014
“Dogs are so much easier to work with, and so many
more children could benefit,” Stevenson says. “There’s not
a lot of access to the therapeutic programs with horses
and not all the kids like the big horses. It was just such
an easy transition, why in the world had nobody thought
of it before?
“Dogs have proven to be a great comfort and support to
people everywhere and in all situations, so the transition
to dogs was an easy one to pursue.”
Stevenson had been to several classes at K9 Manners
&More through the years. When she approached Owners
Mary Green and Kim Sykes about the possibility of
beginning the Champs program, they were on board and
ready to develop the program.
Green serves as the head instructor for the program and
is “absolutely perfect for the job,” Stevenson says. “What
a blessing that has been, and so here we are today with a
bright future for Champs!”
NO BARRIERS
One of the biggest surprises to everyone involved in the
program has been how quickly the participants have
improved their communication skills.
“I just can’t stress enough how the communication skills
have come along,” Green says. “Some of these kids were
super, super quiet. The dogs couldn’t even hear when they
would give a command or call the dog to come to them.
My goodness, now they are all very vocal and very bold.”
However, Green says that strong verbal skills are not
necessary to participate in the program because hand
signals and other forms of communication are used with
the dogs.
“In this environment with support and positive
reinforcement and teamwork, they don’t have a disability;
this is just as training would be with anybody else,” Green
says. “That to me is the greatest joy of it; there are no
barriers to being able to handle a dog to participate.”
Linda Evans says she is always looking for activities for
her 24-year-old son Nick, a Champs Foundation
participant. Evans was initially concerned about Nick’s
ability to take part in the class because of his limited
verbal skills.
“Once Nick learned the signs and increased his
confidence level, he began to speak up, including the
verbal command with the sign. When the sessions end,
Nick impatiently waits for the next session to begin,”
Evans says.
“He has gotten to know the dogs and their owners.
These are wonderful, generous people. They donate part
of their Saturday to provide this experience for my son
and others with special needs.”
Fran Bohan’s 23-year-old son
Evan also attends Champs
classes, though at first he
was hesitant to try it.
“After finding out a
couple of friends of his
were going to be there
as well, he decided to
give it a try. From
day one, he has loved
it,” Bohan says.
Like Nick, Bohan
says Evan has gained
confidence since
joining the Champs
Foundation.
“He's become
comfortable with giving
the commands and being
assertive with the dogs,” Bohan
says. “For a while, he tended to work with one dog in
particular, but has since begun changing it up.
“I can't say enough about the Champs program. You can
see it on the faces of these class members every week—
the smiles and love for those dogs. The dedication of those
running the class and the dog owners is amazing, and we
are very appreciative.”
THE CHAMPS GIVE MORE TO ME
Champs volunteer Cathi Morris, who has previously
worked with Special Olympics Oklahoma, began training
her dog at K9 Manners & More a few years ago and says
the program has allowed her to put her passions to good
use through teaching and continuing work with her dog.
“When Champs classes finally began I’m not sure any
of us really knew what to expect,” Morris says. “But the
thought of being a part of something new and unique
was exciting.”
Fellow volunteer Mary Buck recalls being asked to
participate along with her dog Nike and says she all but
screamed with excitement. She has been a part of the
program since the beginning.
“I never want to miss my Champs time, ever,” Buck
says. “I leave our training sessions and head home with a
smile on my face and the best feeling in the world. I have
seen so many of these kids’ confidence increase and verbal
skills increase as well.”
After hearing amazing things about the program,
Laurie Lambert began to volunteer her time as a coach
last fall.
“I love watching the faces of the Champs as they work
the dogs and feel proud of their accomplishments,”
Lambert says. “This hour-long session is one of the
highlights of my week. The Champs give more to me than
I give to them.”
JUST THE BEGINNING
Up until now, the program has been invitation only
but it was opened to the public at the end of February.
A session costs $50 and runs for six weeks with classes
held weekly.
For more information
or to make a donation, visit
www.champsfoundation.org.
Interested in enrolling
or volunteering? Email Champs at
[email protected] or
Mindy Stevenson at
[email protected]