Paws were tapping and tails were wagging in Geelong on Wednesday as Paws4Kids raised more than $250,000 to bring MacKillop Family Services’ innovative therapy dog program to the city.
MacKillop’s Paw Pals program uses therapy dogs to help vulnerable children who have stopped going to school, or are at risk of disengaging from education, to manage their emotions and behaviour, improve their confidence and reconnect with their education.
Many of these children struggle because they are dealing with tough issues beyond the school gates: family violence, neglect, living out of home, disability, or social and emotional challenges.
Paw Pals has been operating in Melbourne for three years and has had such a positive impact on the lives of the children and young people it works with, that MacKillop aims to bring the program to children and young people in Geelong.
To support the expansion of the program, a matched giving fundraising day, called Paws4Kids, was held on Wednesday with every dollar donated to Paws4Kids automatically tripled by matching partners.
The original goal of $250,000 was reached at noon on Wednesday and was revised to a goal of $370,000.
Geelong foster carer Rachael Buck, who is also a school principal, understands how difficult it can be for children who are dealing with trauma to be in the right mindset to engage in education.
“Children often come into foster care feeling concerned and apprehensive and it can take a while for them to begin to trust,” she said.
“It is wonderful to think that kids here in Geelong will soon have access to the therapy dogs and I hope Paws4Kids reaches the fundraising target so the program can launch in this region”.