It is with a sad heart that we inform you we have lost one of our esteemed therapy dog handlers, Ms. Pam Bowers. Pam and her poodle, Mikey, provided love and support to many children here at the Children's Advocacy Center and she will be deeply missed by all of us. Our condolences to all of her family and friends.
In November of 2017, we welcomed Lisa Talcott as the new Volunteer Coordinator for Beesley's Paw Prints Therapy Dog Program. Lisa brings with her 25 years of management experience, as well as several years of volunteering in the therapy dog arena with her three therapy dogs, Gunner, Spirit and Baylee.
Under Lisa’s guidance, the program’s volunteers have increased significantly; our “Wall
of Fame” featuring all our volunteer therapy dog teams has expanded across the
hallway to include 15 new photos of pups and handlers, as well as a section solely
devoted to our puppy sitters. The number of handlers and dogs has doubled to over
30 teams and we continue to grow in order to keep up with the demand for these
When our Beesley’s Paw Prints Therapy Dog Program began in 2015, with the help of
our local United Way, one of our mandates was to work with other United Way
agencies if they demonstrated a need to use our volunteer therapy dog teams. As a
result, we have become a significant presence in two new facilities, Salus Care and
Salvation Army, and are looking to renew previous programs at Child Care of SWFL
under a new format. We are reaching more children and adults than ever before, making a serious difference in their lives.
In early February, our volunteer teams began attending group therapy sessions at the Salvation Army in Fort Myers. The target segment for these therapy sessions is for those transitioning from prison life back to the civilian world. The first group was comprised of eight men and women; our volunteer team of Lillian with her Goldendoodle Zoe Belle were so well received that by the end of February, the Salvation Army added two more therapy groups of at least eight individuals per group. The expectation is that this program will continue to grow and also include individual therapy sessions with the adults and children the Salvation Army serves throughout its various programs.
In March of this year, we started our relationship with another United Way agency, Salus Care, the most
comprehensive provider of behavioral healthcare services in Southwest Florida. At its three Fort Myers service
locations, we have begun bi-weekly group therapy sessions for both children and adults. As we move forward,
we expect this program to expand as the benefits of therapy dogs in sessions become evident to the therapists
Several of the Child Care of SWFL locations will have teams providing either Dog Safety classes or a reading
program called Tales to Tails in the coming months for the children. We are excited to be back in these
Another way we put our Beesley’s Paw Prints program into use is by attending community outreach events. On April 14, the annual observance of the National Crime Victims’ Rights and Butterfly Release was held in Centennial Park; our therapy dog teams were on hand to provide comfort and support to those in attendance. Gary Gambrell with Samson, Chris Silc with Sweetpea, and Val Scola with Milo mingled with the crowd and shared the love and serenity that therapy dogs exude to all who meet them.
We are also very pleased that the 20th Judicial Court of Lee County has approved our therapy teams to be permitted in the courthouse to help comfort the children who may be called to testify in dependency court. It is our hope to expand this program to serve children testifying in criminal cases. Courtrooms can be very intimidating to a child, especially under the circumstances in which CAC clients find themselves. Having a furry friend available gives the child much needed support, especially if it is the therapy dog that has been with them through many months of counseling sessions.
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Our sympathies are also extended to Jay L. Solomon, one of our long-time therapy dog volunteers, for the loss of her precious Katie. Katie, a beautiful Goldendoodle, who saw countless children here at the Children's Advocacy Center, lost her battle with cancer.