'Pennies for Pups' teaches service
Kelly Beckley’s class started the project by learning about the ways service animals can help people with disabilities.
For the students, the star of the show is a certified therapy dog named Toby, who visits the classroom every Thursday morning with his owner, Laurie Rivera.
His calm and friendly personality makes him well-suited for his therapeutic role and popular at the school.
“My kids love the time they get to spend with Toby, but there’s much more to the project than having a dog in class,” Beckley said. “We’re using this experience to help students learn about different service animals and service animal organizations, and they’ve been able to practice a variety of academic skills as they participate in the project.”
The class decided to raise money to help provide service dogs for veterans through Paws for Purple Hearts, a group that helps veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder train service dogs to assist veterans with combat-related physical disabilities.
“Each dog helps two veterans in this program,” Beckley said.
The students made posters and money collection containers for each classroom at Hardin Park and have written speeches about the project they are presenting to each class at the school.
“Writing, art, public speak ing, math and collaboration skills are all part of this service learning project, and having Toby involved makes it more enjoyable and more real for the students,” Beckley said.
Although a service-learning project is appropriate any time of year, this is an especially appropriate time for Pennies for Pups because October is Disabilities Awareness Month.
Mary Williams, an adaptive physical education teacher, has been working with Beckley’s class this year to help improve their understanding of disabilities and to help them learn about service dogs and other methods to help people with disabilities achieve their potential.
The class set a goal of raising $550 for Pennies for Pups by Nov. 2 and is off to a good start, having raised $232 the first week.
Beckley said her class would be thrilled to exceed the goal and is happy to accept donations from anyone who wishes to contribute.
Anyone interested in donating may send a check to the Hardin Park School office made out to Hardin Park School with the words “Pennies for Pups” in the memo line.