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Paw Pals comes to Ballarat

Thanks to overwhelmingly generous community support the Paws4Kids 2022 fundraising campaign raised a phenomenal $400,000 allowing even more children and young people to access our innovative Paw Pals program.

Our 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 education.

Since the program began in 2019, the demand for our Paw Pals has significantly increased. The program has grown from one teacher and one therapy dog to five facilitators and seven therapy dogs, all of whom are helping kids with social confidence, emotional intelligence, self-regulation and learning motivation.

The Paw Pals program is funded entirely by community support. The success of the 2022 campaign will allow us to launch our innovative Paw Pals program to children and young people in Ballarat. This follows a fantastic response to our 2021 campaign, and an expansion to Geelong earlier this year.

Working out of our MacKillop Education school in Geelong, Kate Smith is our newest Paw Pals facilitator. Kate, a former teacher, works with her therapy dog Billie, a playful five-year-old black Labrador who loves being around people. Billie underwent therapy training at 14 months, initially to support Kate’s own children.

Kate is passionate about her new role.

The great thing is that Billie supports children that are disengaged from learning or not even attending school. By developing a relationship with Billie, it has helped them to change their focus, providing them with a positive experience within an education setting that some of them have never had before.

– Kate

She comments that even in just a few months she has seen positive changes with Andie*, a 16-year-old boy she supports in residential care. Presenting with difficult and sometimes violent behaviours both at home and school, by the end of the first session Andie had completely opened up to Billie and was engaged with activities that involved the dog: “Over the next few weeks Andie was calmer, happier and his drive to attend school has been strong. His teacher has been so impressed with his transformation, she asked: ‘can we have Billie in class here every day?’”

Students or groups can be referred by their school, family, case manager or Child Protection Worker, if you know of any young people who would benefit from the program you can use the referral forms here.

*Name changed to protect privacy