A heartfelt response to some very dark events

School shootings prompt students to create therapy dog program

Recent school shootings prompted five high school students to raise money for St John Ambulance’s Therapy Dog program. From left to right are Michelle T. with her therapy dog Niko, Elizabeth King, Tatum McCuaig-Vredegoor, Emma Nelson, Jade Pahl, Neely Antosh, and Shona S. with her therapy dog Zeus.
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In response to recent school shootings, five students from a high school in Hanna took it upon themselves to raise money to help support St. John Ambulance’s Therapy Dog program and its outreach in the community.

Last month, the students from J.C. Charyk High School presented two visiting teams of Therapy Dog volunteers and their canine companions with a donation of $503.30.

The Grade 7 students — Emma Nelson, Jade Pahl, Neely Antosh, Tatum McCuaig-Vredegoor, and Elizabeth King — had researched the positive benefits of therapy dogs on injured or suffering individuals.

“After the shooting, we looked up therapy dogs in Alberta, and that’s how we found St. John,” said Antosh.

Therapy dogs were brought to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida to help students and staff after 17 people were killed in February, allegedly by a former student. While there has been a spate of school shootings in the U.S., Canada has not been spared. Four people were killed and two were critically wounded in a shooting in a northern Saskatchewan community January 2016.

The students fundraised for an entire month, soliciting donations from local businesses, putting on movie nights at their school theatre, and holding concession stands for snacks. They also handed out informative pamphlets at their school to raise awareness of their cause, as well as information on St. John Ambulance’s Therapy Dog program and its work.

The Therapy Dog program brings joy and comfort to the sick, lonely, and those who need a friendly visit. Last year, St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog teams made more than 1,775 visits to those in need across Alberta.

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