How to help
Anyone who would like to donate to Heeling Friends can send checks to P.O. Box 775444, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477. For more information, visit www.heelingfriends.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steamboat Springs Heeling Friends got a donation last week that Executive Director Lynette Weaver said would help pay for “all kinds of things.”
She said the donation of more than $300 from some of the people who board their horses at Sidney Peak Ranch would cover about 10 percent of the pet therapy program’s $2,500 to $3,500 annual budget.
Weaver said the donation would help pay for the recruitment of new dogs and their owners; health testing for the dogs; and training for dogs to work with patients at Yampa Valley Medical Center, the Doak Walker Care Center, The Haven Assisted Living Center or for the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program in local schools.
She said some of the funding also might help pay for expanding the areas of visitation for Heeling Friends, which was formed in 1997 and made its first visits two years later. The group has 26 teams of owners and dogs.
Because Heeling Friends is a nonprofit group, Weaver said it relies entirely on donations and grant funding. She said both have been difficult to come by the past couple of years.
“It’s especially rewarding to get it from your own community,” she said. “I think it’s an indication of how incredibly supportive the community has been of our program.”
Donna Dunkelberger, who coordinated the charity effort, said the Sidney Peak Ranch boarders started picking a local charity to donate to during the holidays. Dunkelberger, who also boards a horse at the ranch, said they wanted to give back to the community.
The group donated to the Steamboat Springs Animal Shelter during the first year and collected food last year for LIFT-UP of Routt County, Dunkelberger said. She said the Sidney Peak boarders started pooling their money for Heeling Friends after Thanksgiving.
“We picked Heeling Friends because it’s a small charity that does a lot with the hospital and schools,” she said.
Dunkelberger said she hopes the annual charity effort by the Sidney Peak boarders encourages other groups to give back to the community.
Weaver said it takes a dog with a certain temperament to be a Heeling Friend. She said they must be friendly, people-oriented, calm and must react neutrally to loud noises and being touched frequently — especially by children.
She said that takes a lot of training. Some of that expense, $100 to $150, is shared by the owner, which covers training for the dog and owner and two years of liability insurance for visits.
And Weaver said they also provide scholarships to dog owners who might not be able to share the costs.
She said the group is appreciative of any donation it gets from the community.
“We’re just thankful that we receive what we do,” Weaver said.