Aug 15, 2023
Visits students at Kennedy School and adult participants in Community Day Services program
Kennedy School welcomed a special guest recently – Kare 9 Nigel, an 80-pound comfort dog from Lutheran Church Charities (LCC).
“Sit down and give him some love,” Sarah Peirce, the school’s behavior specialist and CPI trainer, told students as they cautiously approached the specially trained golden retriever.
“He doesn’t get upset,” assured veteran handler Jim Morrison. “Only during thunderstorms.”
Once a year, Kennedy School arranges for Kare 9 Nigel or another K-9 Comfort Dog from Lutheran Church Charities to visit because comfort dogs have a way of helping reduce anxiety, boost c
ommunication skills and support the emotional and social needs of children with developmental disabilities.
“Students, especially those with autism, tend to do well with them,” said Principal Dawn Angelini. “They have a calming influence.”
Based in Tinley Park, St. Coletta’s of Illinois provides educational and vocational training services to children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Its therapeutic day school serves children ages 3-21 while its Community Day Services program works with adults, building adaptive learning skills, economic self-sufficiency, independence and integration into the community.
On Aug. 9, Morrison and Kare 9 Nigel stopped by the school for a two-hour visit, spending time with small groups of students and adult participants.
“We bring the mercy, compassion, presence and proclamation of Jesus Christ to those who are suffering and in need,” said Morrison, a Tinley Park resident who takes Nigel around to schools, nursing homes and churches to offer comfort and support.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” he said.
Lutheran Church Charities created the K-9 Comfort Dogs program in 2008 to build a bridge for compassionate ministry through the uniquely calming nature of dogs. It has more than 130 dogs that routinely visit nursing homes, police stations, schools and churches in 27 states.
The LCC K-9 Ministries’ comfort dogs and handlers have helped heal a number of communities, including Newtown, Conn. where families endured a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and Texas where families lost loved ones and homes in Hurricane Harvey.
Each comfort dog goes through special training to learn to sense when humans need support.
“It’s amazing what these dogs can do for people who are suffering,” said Morrison.
“They connect so well with our students,” agreed Angelini.