At PetSmart Charities, we know the healing effect animals can have on people. That’s why we selected Keystone Pet Enhanced Therapy Services (KPETS) to receive a PetSmart Charities grant in 2018.
Amanda Walker, a district leader with PetSmart, chose KPETS because of the exceptional work they do.
“Whether it’s brightening the day of elderly citizens in a retirement home, encouraging a shy child to get involved in a classroom setting, or providing comfort and motivation to cancer patients undergoing chemo, the KPETS team positively affects so many lives,” Walker says.
Touching Lives, Warming Hearts
According to Karen Gerth, founder and executive director of KPETS, the organization was founded to help people in need.
“Keystone Pet Enhanced Therapy Services is a network of dedicated registered volunteers who partner with their companion animals to provide comfort, encouragement and rehabilitation through human/animal interactions serving our local communities,” she says. “Our mission is to promote the healing and rehabilitating benefits of the human/animal bond, and our services are provided free of charge.”
The organization has over 400 volunteer teams that visit hundreds of facilities each year in central Pennsylvania and Maryland. These teams visit hospitals, assisted living facilities, schools, and more, where the animals provide comfort and encourage interaction. Volunteers report that people who were previously withdrawn come alive in the presence of the companion animals, despite the person’s health issues.
Funding Is Desperately Needed
Despite the great work the organization does, KPETS faces unique challenges when it comes to funding.
“Many people want to donate to animals in need—to save abused dogs or feed animals in shelters,” Gerth explained. “Many others want to support people. Both are greatly needed. Our challenge is getting donors to connect that KPETS assists people through the interaction with our registered pets. When applying for grants, we don't really fit in the usual categories. That is why Petsmart Charities’ recognition of the value of what we do is appreciated.”
KPETS will use the grant to screen and train volunteers and connect with organizations requesting KPETS’s services.
“Another challenge we face is the need to have continual training and screening of additional volunteer therapy teams,” Gerth said. “This ongoing need and the increased demand makes recruiting and processing new teams a continuing essential function of our organization.”
Thanks to the grant from Petsmart, KPETS will continue to offer their free services to those in need of their special comfort and support.