Monday, February 1, 2016

Local Charity Spotlight: Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy


In February, we share our love with those who matter most. During this month, we can also expand that by sharing our love and kindness with others. Reaching out into the community, selflessly helping those in need is away to share a little love with those most in need. During the month of February and beyond, I encourage you to find ways to spread kindness to others in the community. The next few weeks, I will be highlighting some local charities that will give you some ideas about where you can make a difference.


This week, I am highlighting Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy. Thank you so much to Janelle Thoma who works with Rainbow Assisted Therapy for answering some questions about this wonderful local charity!

What is the mission of Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy?
The mission of Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy is to work with trained, registered therapy dogs to help people, especially children and those with special needs, to improve their health, activities of daily living and quality of life.

What are some of the main programs supported by Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy? 
Rainbow has many different types of programs that range from working one on one with patients in hospitals to group settings in schools.  We also have dog apprehension classes for kids who are afraid of dogs as well as dog safety presentations in which we teach children how to safely interact with dogs.

What communities does the organization serve?
Rainbow serves communities throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.

Dylan with Ridley. Image credit Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy.

How can local residents become involved in this cause? 
Local residents can be involved in a variety of ways.  We are always looking for new therapy dogs and handler teams.  We also have a need for those who want to help but don't have dogs.  Finally, we're always in need of monetary donations to help us continue to help those we serve.  By following our the Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy Facebook page, people can find out a variety of ways to help.

What have you found the most rewarding in working with the organization?
The most rewarding part is seeing kids smile after working with our dogs, especially those kids with special needs who have trouble showing emotion.  It makes all the training worth it!

How do dogs become part of the program? 
In order to be part of our program,  dogs and handlers need to take our Intro to AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy) class.  A dog should be at least 10 months old and familiar with basic obedience commands (sit, down, stay, etc.). Handlers must be 18 or older.  The course includes instruction on hand signals, getting your dog to work for others, and an introduction to the games used in our therapy work to help improve/enhance verbal and motor skills.  More information on how to become a member can be found on our website.

Joan and Pablo at a hospital class. Image credit via Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy.

Are there particular breeds that are more suitable? No, there is not one breed that is better suited to be a therapy dog.  Generally speaking, a good therapy dog is responsive to its owner as well as other people. We look for dogs that have good manners, are willing to learn new things and do not become overly stressed in new or different situations.

What types of events throughout the year offer the community an opportunity to get involved?
Throughout the year we have many different fundraisers which allow the community to get involved.  We hold lots of online fundraisers as well as an annual holiday craft fair in December.  Again, please see the website for more up to date information.

Thank you again to Janelle for introducing us to Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy! Keep an eye out for our other features this month!
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