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Brooke Thomas, Teacher at Memorial Drive Elementary School, Waycross, GA
My name is Brooke Thomas. I work at an elementary school in Waycross, Georgia. Ozlow, our classroom therapy dog, has been a member of our faculty for five years. This is her sixth year serving our students. I teach a self-contained classroom for children with Autism in grades 3-5.
Ozlow is a friend to our entire school. She has a wonderful calming effect on my students with anger management problems. She will often go to them when they are becoming upset and bump them with her nose asking to be petted. One of my students recently told me during a social skills lesson that” petting Ozlow will make your mad go away”. We also utilize Ozlow for our students who wander or run away. The students will be attached to Ozlow who will keep them with the group. She (Ozlow) has also been an encouragement for our students with limited verbal skills. They will work very hard to be able to give Ozlow a verbal command so that they can be her helper for the day. Ozlow has made a humongous difference in our classroom and school. Ozlow is used as a reward for the good behavior of students school wide (they get to have Ozlow time), she is used for encouragement for children who do not want to go to school (extreme cases: they will come visit Ozlow each morning before going to their classrooms). Ozlow is known far and wide in our community and surrounding communities.
I have recommended Project Chance to many families and schools and will continue to do so.
Sherri Henderson, Henderson Haven, Orange Park, FL
Note: Dawson is their Project Chance therapy dog.
Dawson chose the founders of Henderson Haven in March of 2015. Dawson began working for short periods of time in May of 2015 and then was on site pretty constantly from August of 2015 with a couple of breaks for additional training.
Henderson Haven is a non-profit organization which works with people with developmental disabilities from the age of 3 through adult. Henderson Haven provides the following services: Private School for ages 3 – 22; Before and after care for students in both the private school and public schools in Clay County; Independent Living Skill training for adults during the day; Advocacy services for the entire community; One-on-one services in the community for people with development disabilities to support independent living and respite for families.
Dawson has several roles. She is a member of staff at Henderson Haven. She comforts and provides redirection during and after behavior issues. She serves as a “weighted blanket” for students with sensory needs. She listens to students during reading. Dawson accompanies students on field trips. She has also been successful in alerting to asthma attacks and seizures and has helped a student battling pseudo seizures. Dawson has participated in community events as a “spokes dog” for Henderson Haven. After center hours, Dawson helps a 20-year-old young lady with severe autism. Dawson accompanies the young lady in the community so she is able to participate more independently. She also provides sensory input and companionship to this young lady to help her function more independently at home.
Dawson has made a huge difference in the services at Henderson Haven. She has helped students with severe behavioral issues gain control quicker and helped them see improvements in frequency of behavior incidents. She has motivated students to work on reading and math. She even has brought a student his calculator so he could continue his work after he threw it. Dawson has also facilitated children in coming out of their shells and begin to talk more. She breaks the ice with new students and helps them feel comfortable and to be able to settle into the routines easier. She also puts parents at ease at leaving their students in the care of the staff at Henderson Haven. The young lady she works with after hours has even begun to initiate contact with Dawson. Henderson Haven has already recommended Project Chance to others in the community.
Sherri Henderson, Vice-President/COO
Henderson Haven, Inc.
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The following are comments from several families with Project Chance assistance dogs. These comments have not been edited in any way.
Project Chance has placed over 50 assistance dogs as of August 2017. Some act as service dogs for one person (usually a child with autism) and others function as classroom therapy dogs. Here some comments from the families and teachers of these dogs.
Dr. Julie Buckley, Pediatrician
Our service dog, Flux, came into our lives when she was just 6 weeks old back in 2009. Our family was over the moon about the puppy dates we had with her for the first many months. Our first puppy sleepover was a night of joy, and we were thrilled when we got to have her for a whole weekend. We underwent training individually and as a family, and the Project Chance family had the opportunity to customize what Flux was specially trained to do for my daughter. We knew that she would travel with us, that we hoped she would be able to be supportive if Dani had a seizure, and that Flux would help Dani through times of anxiety and with social interaction. When, over Christmas, we were offered the opportunity to keep her forever, and she didn't have to go back to our puppy raiser, well that was just the best Christmas ever.
The surprise has not been that Flux has done all of that for Dani. The confidence of what a Project Chance dog would do was conveyed to us from Day One. The surprise has been the added bonuses. The fact that the dog is a treating member of the team, and as the mom, I can rely on her to help- that's a huge stress reliever for me. The fact that the dog decompresses everyone in the house, that's a huge stress reliever. The fact that I hear people speaking kindly about the working girl/dog team when we're in public makes me less defensive and more peaceful when we go out into the world. The confidence that Flux the wonder service dog has in her ability to help us care for Dani is palpable, and I don't know how we ever lived without her.
As a physician, I have had the opportunity to see service dogs who are the product of several different organizations. I have never failed to be less impressed with all of the others when I compare them with Project Chance dogs. Their program is unique and works magnificently. They are the only organization I recommend to the families with whom I work.
Project Chance 95512 Arbor Lane, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034 - (904) 614-7497 - email@example.com
Project Chance: Support Letters & Testimonials
Joey Travolta, Founder Inclusion Films
September 1, 2016
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Joey Travolta and my company, Inclusion Films (inclusionfilms.com), provides vocational schools, training and summer camps for developmentally disabled children and young adults, and I am the proud owner of Sullivan! She is a five-year-old female Golden Retriever. She was trained, as a therapy dog, by Project Chance. I first became aware of Project Chance several years ago while I was conducting a summer camp in Jacksonville, Immediately, I was impressed with the service that the dog provided to facilitate the inclusion of the child in the film camp program. I expressed at the time to BJ Szwedzinski (owner of Project Chance) that if there were ever an opportunity to have one of her dogs in my special needs programs, I would be interested. When I got the call that BJ had the perfect dog for our program, of course, I was grateful.
My program currently has three facilities: one in Livermore, CA. one in Sacramento, CA and one in Bakersfield, CA. I travel, along with Sullivan between the three programs. The vocational schools, along with my partner Futures Explored, train high functioning developmentally disabled adults all aspects of the film industry including camera, editing, writing, producing and post-production. Students, alongside professionals, actually make three short films a year in each of the facilities. My goal is for our students to gain entry level jobs in the film industry. Many of our students work in commercials, Web series and PSA's (Public Service Announcements) that we produce through the workshop programs. After completing our program, many students become paid employees and teachers within the program.
Sullivan travels with me and her role, in the program, is to be a calming companion for our students whenever needed. She intuitively knows whom to sit or lie next to when they need some extra support or reassuring when they are feeling stressed. Sullivan also has been the star of a Web series (produced by Inclusion Films, Bakersfield) called Sullivan’s Travels. So far she’s visited my wife’s preschool (where she often goes to school with her and acts as a therapy dog for over 100 children, when she’s not traveling with me) in Tarzana, CA, a retirement center, and Inclusion Films, Bakersfield. The online series has been picked up by several news outlets including Yahoo, AOL and Huffington Post.
Sullivan’s addition to my programs has made an enormous difference in the teaching environment when she’s present. Again, her special sweet, calm and reassuring personality is so impactful to the students. I encourage my students to pet, groom and walk her and that teaches them patience and responsibility.
I enthusiastically recommend and support the work of Project Chance and feel so lucky to have one of their trained, special dogs as my own.
Please feel free to contact me with any specific questions you may have.
Tina Stegman, Teacher at Janie Howard Charter School, Lake Wales, FL
From: Stegman, Tina <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: BJ Szwedzinski <email@example.com>
Sent: Tue, Jul 26,2016 12:32 pm
Subject: Re: project chance needs your help
|What type of organization are they? ||Charter school in central Florida.|
|When did they get the dog?||Thule: 4 years ago (retired due to health reasons) Phoenix: 3 years ago|
|What are the dog’s roles? |
Phoenix works in an ASD/VE primary classroom. He helps with the meltdown, can alert for an oncoming seizure, helps increase communication in the classroom, alerts my students when someone new is coming into the classroom so that they are prepared and it doesn’t upset them. He is used as a “free time” center when the students want to just hang out with him and relax or play a game of fetch (no more than 2 at a time). He helps calm students during quiet time so that they can settle and relax.Phoenix also goes every Tuesday afternoon to our local hospital to do pet therapy in the geriatric unit. He was ‘Volunteer of the Quarter” earlier in the year.
|How has the dog made a difference in their programs?||Phoenix has brought joy and lots of love into the classroom. The students look forward to coming to school to see him every day. The regular education classes interact with my students by asking them questions about Phoenix. He has enabled me to “catch” meltdowns before they happen so that I can head them off. He has made our classroom on of the “sought after” ESE classrooms in our charter system.|
|Would they recommend Project Chance to others?||Yes|