Six New Teams Of Humans And Dogs Graduated For Brighter Futures Thanks To Canine Companions For Independence

Canine Companions for Independence at Baylor, Scott And White Health Kinkeade Campus*

Since opening in November 2015, Texas’ only Canine Companions for Independence has been graduating teams of dogs and humans for life-changing futures. It has also been the site of where puppy trainers give up their puppies for a final training period that will prepare them for their possible careers in helping humans in need.

While it takes a unique dog to be able take on such responsibilities, it has largely been found that Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and crosses of the two breeds are best suited as

  • service dogs — assist adults with physical disabilities by performing daily tasks.
  • hearing dogs — alert the deaf and hard of hearing to important sounds.
  • facility dogs — work with a professional in a visitation, education or healthcare setting.
  • skilled companions — enhance independence for children and adults with physical, cognitive and development disabilities.

On Friday, February 10, six teams were presented to friends, families and supporters of the people and their best friends forever at the Kinkeade Campus at Baylor Scott And White Health in Irving. In addition to being the only CCI center in Texas, it is also the only CCI in partnership with a healthcare system thanks to U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade, who spearheaded the creation of such a facility.

With the permission of CCI, here are their stories for your consideration:

From the left: (back row) Sharon, Pam Megan, David, Stormi, Misty, Olivia, Ross, Becky and Nanette; (front row) Epic III, Kinsey II, Carlita II, Kit IV, Ranger V and Sandy VII*

  • Sharan, Pam, Megan and Skilled Companion Epic III – Megan fell in love with Epic the moment she met him. The day she found out he had been matched with her and would be her new best friend, the room filled with tears of joy. Megan is 14 years old and was born with intellectual and physical disabilities. This leads to anxiety, frustration, trouble with comprehension and lack of focus. Epic will help Megan by helping her focus, providing deep pressure and attention for her anxiety, but most of all by being a best friend. In a very touching moment, Megan exclaimed, “Mom, I’m not lonely anymore!” Megan’s family believes Epic will be the key to Megan reaching her full potential.
  • David and Service Dog Kinsey II – In September 1998, David was in a car accident that led to the loss of both his legs. He has double prosthetics that allow him to walk, however, he does have some mobility issues. He also sustained a TBI that now can cause him to become overstimulated in loud environments, as well as some short term memory trouble. Kinsey helps David by retrieving dropped items, opening doors and so much more, providing increased independence. David’s favorite thing about Kinsey is that she looks to serve him. He is looking forward to the future and all the experiences that are to come with Kinsey by his side.
  • Stormi and Facility Dog Carlita II – Stormi works for the Regional Victim Crisis Center in Abilene, Texas, an organization who works with children who are victims of sexual abuse. Carlita will accompany these children in both therapy sessions and the courtroom. Stormi says that there is only so much a human can do to help a child who no longer trusts adults. She hopes Carlita will bridge this gap and provide a calm, consistent and safe presence for these children who are in an otherwise scary situation. Stormi believes that Carlita is going to “heal a lot of hearts.”
  • Misty, Olivia and Skilled Companion Kit IV – Olivia is 13 years old and was born with a gene mutation that led to a rare skeletal disorder. Because of this, Olivia has limited fine motor and some gross motor skills and is developmentally delayed. She is also hard of hearing, which makes her very shy in public because she lacks confidence in what people are saying to her. Her mom, Misty, hopes her new dog Kit will help with some physical therapy, as well as allow Olivia to lose her fear of interacting with others and become the silly, outgoing person she is at home, when they are in public as well. Misty said that during their first two weeks with Kit, Olivia had already opened up and was communicating with adults more than ever in her life. There are great things in the future for this pair.
  • Ross, Becky and Facility Dog Ranger V – Ross and Becky work for Waskom ISD in East Texas. Ranger will now work alongside them in a special needs classroom as a facility dog. Ross and Becky believe that Ranger will be able to unlock the students’ potential for success. Ross explained that a lot of times school can become a negative place for students with special needs who struggle in the classroom. He hopes having Ranger around will turn school back into a positive, fun place for them. Ranger will work with students grades K-8. Ross and Becky hope he will improve children’s conversation with the faculty, keep them calm and focused, and provide structure and routine. They believe Ranger will truly change these kids’ lives.
  • Nanette and Service Dog Sandy VII – Nanette was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy at age 20. This is a progressive disease, so Nanette eventually lost her ability to walk and now has limited use of her arms and fingers. Sandy will help Nanette by retrieving dropped items, opening doors, turning on and off lights, pulling her laundry basket, and much more. Above all, Sandy gives Nanette a sense of security. Knowing that her dog can help her in so many situations makes her feel safe, and Nanette feels she can now do things without her husband around all the time. Sandy can also speak on command, alerting neighbors or other people nearby that something is wrong, or retrieve her phone if she gets into a tough spot. This is the beginning of increased independence for Nanette.

If you would like to attend a graduation, they are scheduled to be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. on May 5, August 4 and November 3. But if you can’t wait to see this remarkable campus, tours are held on the first Thursday of the month at 1:30 p.m. And if you are interested in volunteering, orientation meetings at scheduled to be held from 10:30 a.m. to noon on April 8, June 10 and September 9.

* Photo provided by Canine Companions for Independence Lone Star Chapter

Canine Companions For Independence At Baylor Scott And White Health — Kinkeade Campus Graduation Had Tears And Cheers

Box of tissues

Box of tissues

Most graduations boast mortar boards, robes and cheers as the grads leave their comfort zone for the next step of life. But unlike other more typical ceremonies, the one taking place at noon on Friday, May 13, had no caps and gowns. Instead there were boxes of tissues and tears along with tail wagging and cheers.

The event was the Canine Companions for Independence graduation of ten dog-and-human teams at its Baylor Scott and White Health — Kinkeade Campus in Irving .

Graduation program in Canine Training Center

Graduation program in Canine Training Center

After years of being trained for their roles as life-changing companions for “individuals with physical and developmental disabilities” from Houston, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Keller, Cleburne and others areas of North Texas, these ten dogs were all summa cum laude graduates.

Puppy being turned in for formal training program

Puppy being turned in for formal training program

With an SRO crowd filling the Canine Training Center, it was heart rending to see the puppy raisers formally present their canines to the human, who “will begin their journey toward a more independent life.”

Prior to graduation, the human partners spent two weeks bonding with their dogs at the Campus thanks to cottages on the property.

And while this part of the program was truly gratifying, the teary part of the day’s activities was the handing over of the new class of 17 Labradors and Golden Retrievers for their formal training by their families who have raised them for more than a year. Even the most hardened observer found it hard to believe that after living and working with these remarkable animals that the puppy raisers could give them up. For puppy raiser Dawn Thompson, Freckles was the first puppy that she had raised for the program. Just prior to the handover as she and Freckles checked out the new dog-friendly pond with Diane Howard, she admitted that it was going to be a rough experience.

Freckles, Dawn Thompson and Diane Howard

Freckles, Dawn Thompson and Diane Howard

Freckles and her classmates would go through a carefully monitored six-to-mine-month training course at the facility. Those that passed the initial temperament and health evaluation would be trained to work around wheelchairs and learn more than 40 commands like pulling, switching on-and-off lights and retrieve.

But as difficult as it was to turn over their puppies, all the raisers were reminded that the pooches were destined for a greater mission.

In addition to donations, Canine Companions for Independence at Baylor Scott and White Health – Kinkeade Campus is looking for volunteers. Information on both can be found here!

JUST IN: Lee Ann And Alan White And PlainsCapital Provide $125,000 For Pond At Canine Companions For Independence

It was just months ago that Texas’ only Canine Companions for Independence officially opened on the Baylor, Scott and White Health campus in Irving. Today was graduation day, with 10 teams of dogs and humans officially starting their lives together. It was also a day when 17 new Labrador and Golden Retriever recruits were being turned over by their puppy-raisers to be trained for their careers as service dogs.

However, a surprise reveal took place among all the wagging tails and smiles. It was the beautiful outdoor water feature at the entrance of the brilliantly designed complex. Thanks to a $125,000 donation by Lee Ann and Alan White and PlainsCapital, the natural-looking pond with fountain was made paws-ible.

Freckles, Dawn Thompson and Diane Howard

Freckles, Dawn Thompson and Diane Howard

Just before the graduation and turnover took place, PlainsCapital’s Diane Howard and puppy-raiser Dawn Thompson checked out the pool. New recruit Freckles resisted the temptation to do what comes natural for a Lab.

Texas’ First Canine Companions For Independence Graduation And Matriculation Resulted In Cheers And Tears

Just the day before the Canine Companions for Independence Baylor Scott and White Health Kinkeade Campus had been dedicated. On this Saturday, November 7th afternoon, the center would be the scene of the beginning of four unique partnerships and the next step for puppies “entering the professional training” stage of the service dog program.

Jan Rees-Jones

Jan Rees-Jones

It would be a graduation and matriculation day filled with cheers and tears by the standing-room-only room of humans that included Baylor Scott and White CEO/President Joel Allison, CCI CEO Paul Mundell, CCI National Board Chair John Miller, philanthropist Jan Rees-Jones, Baylor Animal Assisted Therapy Director Linda Marler and Wounded Warrior CCI teams U.S. Army Ret. Sgt. Steve Blackman with Godley and U.S. Army Ret. Sgt. Brian Boone with Brindle.

Linda Marler, Judy Schumpert and Ed Kinkeade and new Canine Companions for Independence recruit

Linda Marler, Judy Schumpert and Ed Kinkeade and new Canine Companions for Independence recruit

This day was a long time in coming. And for such an occasion, it was only right that Federal Judge Ed Kinkeade served as the commencement speaker. He recalled how his beloved dog, Bo, had introduced him to the unique talents of canines working with humans in need. Before becoming one of the Baylor Animal Assisted Therapy program’s teams, Bo had seemed like your typical BFF. Ed told how Bo would get him up in the middle of the night for bathroom break. They would head off to a nearby bridge. One night Bo disappeared across a bridge and came running back alerting Ed that the park’s port-a-potties were on fire. Another night Bo came racing back and jumped into the judge’s arms with 20 horses headed in their direction.

It was through the Baylor program that Ed discovered that Bo made an immeasurable impact in the lives of patients. Researching the subject, Ed came upon the Canine Companions for Independence program based in California. Over the years it had placed more than 4,000 dogs with people with disabilities, both physical and mental.

After three years of negotiations, Ed and the Baylor Scott and White team landed the center. It would not only be the first CCI facility in Texas, it also be CCI’s first association with a hospital. Here Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and crosses of the two breeds would have months of training and vetting after being raised by volunteer puppy raisers. Not all would make it. Each would have to have the temperament, the intelligence and the ability to assist.

In a show of appreciation to Ed, it was revealed that a puppy in the next littler of CCI puppies would be named in his honor. It seems that all the puppies born in a littler share the same first initial. The “K” litter that will include “Puppy Kinkeade” is due to be born within the next month.

Canine Companions for Independence new recruit

Canine Companions for Independence new recruit

But this was more than a graduation day for four teams. It was also a day when the new “recruits” were to be handed over by their puppy raisers to the CCI trainers for their six months of learning. It was gratifying to see the families and individuals, who for 14-16 months had worked and done the preliminary work day-in, day-out, present the dozens of Labs. As one individual said, “I just couldn’t do it. I would be too attached to give them up.”

Still these puppy raisers like Judy Schumpert, who had raised 17 puppies over the years for service, recognized that their dogs were going to serve a greater purpose.

On this day, four such dogs had not only met the incredible requirements, they had bonded with four individuals, each with different needs that the dogs could serve with loyalty, understanding, training and what people call “unconditional love.”

As part of the official graduation, each pooch’s puppy raiser brought their dog to the stage and handed over the leash to the new companion as the crowd applauded and teared up.

Canine Companions for Independence graduation audience

Canine Companions for Independence graduation audience

As Ed said, “These folks are no longer people with needs or disabilities. They were the people with the cool dogs.”

There was Jaspers V that would help Emma, who has autism and lives with her grandparents. Mabel V would be assisting Sarah by becoming a “courthouse dog” in Marble Falls and work with abused children going through the court system. There are only 100 courthouse dogs in the country.

Michael Caspers and Vincent III

Michael Caspers and Vincent III

Pablo VI would help wheel-chair-bound Chelsey. And then there was Vincent III that would be U.S. Army Captain Michael Caspers’ “point man”. Standing perfectly erect in his uniform, Michael was so focused and professional. It was hard to imagine how much his life changed since that day in Afghanistan when on August 24, 2011, he stepped on a pressure-plate IED and lost his right leg below the knee.

Shifting gears, Michael told how Vincent had already started working with him in their two weeks together. It seems that Michael’s prosthetic limb didn’t allow him to know when he stepped on toes. Vincent had already started letting him know with a yelp.

With the sun shining overhead four partners left the Kinkeade Campus for new lives and adventures, while more than a dozen new recruits moved into the shining new kennels to undertake their final step toward a spring graduation.

Canine Companions For Independence Baylor Scott And White Health Kinkeade Campus Dedication Was A Howling Success

After hit and miss weather of Thursday, November 5, the Canine Companion of Independence (CCI) dedication organizers were breathing a deep sigh of relief. Not only had the tornadic and hail storm hit other parts, the sun was shining, the temperatures were perfect and more than expected showed up to see the dedication of the national program’s first Texas facility.

It was also the first of its kind to partner up with a hospital and in this case it was Baylor Scott & White. Over the years the Irving CCI Baylor Scott And White Health Kinkeade Campus will not only be the graduate school for the canines, but it will also be the temporary home for the human recipients to train as they partner up with their BFFs.

Canine Companions For Independence classmates

Canine Companions For Independence classmates

The services dogs could have cared less about all the hoop-la. They were on duty, while the two-legged critters were amazed and gratified how nine mesquite-covered acres in Irving had been turned into a breathtaking center to yearly prepare 60 dogs to assist children and adults with disabilities.

Outdoor kennels

Outdoor kennels

Indoor kennels

Indoor kennels

On one side of the layout was the Diane and Hal Brierley Kennels with 24 spotless air-conditioned and heated indoor kennels, individual outdoor spaces and a center courtyard with shower facilities. Just a few feet away was the Jan Rees-Jones Canine Center with grooming spa, laundry, veterinary clinic and food-storage and -prep areas.

Food prep area

Food prep area

IMG_2933

Across the paths were cabins specially designed for humans to stay in preparing for the partnerships. Just outside the cabins are outdoor seating and a fire pit. In between the home for the humans and the hounds was the Team Lodge and Training Center.

The grounds included watering areas and loads of room for the pooches to run and just be dogs.

As philanthropists Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones, Margo Goodwin, Mark Grace, Lindalyn AdamsPamela Street, Kristi Hoyl, Todd Howard, CCI National Board Chair John Miller in from New York,  CCI National Board Trustee Bob Street in from Colorado and vets Steve Blackman with his CCI-trained Gotti and  Jason Morgan with his CCI-trained Rue toured the facilities, one person was heard to say, “Not only would my dog love to live here, I’d love to move in, too.”

 Jan Rees-Jones

Jan Rees-Jones

When the official dedication took place in the Training Center with Baylor Health System Foundation Robin Robinson, CCI CEO Paul Mundell, Baylor Irving President Cindy Schamp, Baylor Scott And White Board of Trustee Steve Boyd and CCI Irving Program Manager Sara Koch on stage, Federal Judge Ed Kinkeade, who had spearheaded the project, stole the show. It was nothing new. He usually is a true-blue scene stealer. Ed told how his beloved pooch Bo had been the typical dog until they decided to enroll in the Baylor Animal Assisted Therapy program.

Steve Boyd, Paul Mundell, Cindy Schamp, Ed Kinkeade and Robin Robinson

Steve Boyd, Paul Mundell, Cindy Schamp, Ed Kinkeade and Robin Robinson

It was through the program that Ed came to realize and appreciate the value of using dogs to help patients improve their lives. He mounted an effort to land the highly renowned Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) for North Texas. By landing such a facility, it meant that Texans in need of such companions would not have relocate to CCI facilities in other states that have resulted in 4,797 teams of humans and dogs since its founding in July 1975.

Started in California, the CCI program is a lengthy one, where puppies (Labrador retrievers, gold retrievers and crosses of the two breeds) live with “puppy raisers” for 14-16 months before undergoing a six- to nine-month training course with professional trainers at the center. They learn everything from basic obedience, working with wheelchairs to learning over 40 commands to help their human companions. They are especially trained to serve as service dogs, facility dogs, skilled companions and hearing dogs and are provided to those in need free of charge.

After three years of negotiating, the deal was cut and the facility was located in Ed’s hometown of Irving.

Jan Rees-Jones and Ed Kinkeade

Jan Rees-Jones and Ed Kinkeade

Ed recalled how in going through a training program in preparation for the AAT test, the trainer told Ed, “Bo is doing great.” On the other hand, the trainer suggested that Ed needed some work. He then said that despite his own many accomplishments both on and off the bench, he had a twinge of humility when a patient asked, “Are you the guy with Bo?”

At one point breaking from his affable charm, Ed teared up and recalled his late partner. It was apparent that Bo’s talents in inspiring others had included Ed, after whom the Texas campus was named.

Now’s The Time To Kickstart Soon-To-Open Canine Companions For Independence At Baylor Scott & White Health-Kinkeade Campus

Canine Companions for Independence at Baylor, Scott & White Health Kinkeade Campus*

Canine Companions for Independence at Baylor, Scott & White Health Kinkeade Campus*

Today is going to the dogs. But this time it’s in a very good way. Back in February, it was announced that North Texas had landed the one and only Canine Companions for Independence program in the Lone Star State. The Baylor Scott & White Health-Kinkeade Campus for Canine Companions for Independence will be located on nine acres in Irving and will be the “university,” where 30 dogs will graduate annually to assist “people with a broad range of disabilities.”

Three types of assistance dogs will be trained at the Kinkeade Campus:

  1. Service dogs assisting adults with physical disabilities by performing daily tasks
  2. Skilled companions enhancing independence for children and adults with physical, cognitive and developmental disabilities
  3. Facility dogs working with a professional in a visitation, education, criminal justice and healthcare setting

Not only is it the nation’s premiere assistance dog training program first Texas facility, it’s also the “first to be connected with a major health care system.”

Original plans called for the center to open in August. However, the past month of rain slowed things down resulting in a November opening. Ah, but it actually works out to be perfect timing. Come November when the facilities officially open, it will coincide with the first class of pooches to graduate in Texas’ one and only CC facility.

Chris Kittredge and Canine Companions for Independence pup-ils*

Chris Kittredge and Canine Companions for Independence pup-ils*

To say these dogs are remarkable is an understatement. They are lifesavers and life changers. Trained from puppyhood to physically assist the physically challenged, they also provide emotional support. And it’s not every dog that can handle such responsibilities. In fact, the number of those that make it through the months of training are miniscule. To take a dog through the program is a monumental cost — an average of $50,000. But they are provided to those in need free of charge thanks to philanthropic support. And by “philanthropic support,” it doesn’t mean five-and six-figure donations. Nope. Every $5 is added to the coffer.

That’s why the Baylor Health Care System Foundation launched a kickstarter today to help raise funding for the operation at the Texas CCI campus. For instance, here’s what a donation would provide:

  • $5 — a treat pouch for a puppy in training;
  • $10 — a Gentle Leader leash or a dozen tennis balls for training;
  • $15 — grooming supplies like nail clippers, bushes, toothbrush and toothpaste (yes, the dogs get their teeth brushed but don’t need flossing)
  • $25 — dog beds for advanced training dogs
  • $40 — one month of dog food
  • $50 — six-month supply of heartworm preventative medication
  • $75 — Pre-Team Training blood work/medical tests for dogs in training or a full set of bed linens for one dormitory bedroom that houses team training students
  • $100 — dog crates
  • $300 — doggie pool for the puppies play time
  • $500 — transportation of one puppy from national headquarters to its puppy raise or X-ray canine joints for hip dysplasia evaluation
Jason Morgan (File photo)

Jason Morgan (File photo)

Rue (File photo)

Rue (File photo)

The goal is $25,000, but it’s doable. So, how about skipping that latte today and donating? Starbucks will never know that you decided to donate the money to help bring together two BFFs. Need more proof? Then hear it from retired-Staff Sergeant Jason Morgan and his partner Rue.

* Graphic and photo provided by Baylor Health Care System Foundation

Baylor Health Care System Foundation Luncheon Literally Went To The Dogs

Baylor Health Care System Foundation Board luncheons deal with issues facing the healthcare industry. At the 10th floor of the Baylor Charles S. Sammons Cancer Center on Tuesday, February 10, the room was fill with a pretty heady crowd as usual. But there was a common thread for certain folks like Jan Rees-Jones, Diane and Hal Brierley, Trisha Wilson and Marti Carlin. What was the common denominator — the appreciation and respect for animals that assist humans.

Hal Brierly and Rue

Hal Brierly and Rue

It was appropriate since the day’s topic was the Canine Companions for Independence. This program had started in Santa Rosa, California, and flourished thanks to the late Charles Schulz (aka father of Snoopy) and his wife Jean. Over the years their world-class program had bred, trained and provided incredible dogs to aid humans who were disabled in some fashion.

Robin Robinson

Robin Robinson

Even the ever-charming Baylor Health Care System Foundation President Robin Robinson admitted that seeing how a multiple sclerosis patient was aided by one of the dogs hit home. His daughter has MS.

He admitted that until he had visited the Santa Rosa campus, he hadn’t realized how the dots were connected. But then he saw how the dogs were bred and trained from birth to accomplish the most amazing tasks.

 Jan Rees-Jones

Jan Rees-Jones

Robin then announced that the Rees-Jones Foundation had provided $2M for the creation of a CCI South Central Region in North Texas in association with Baylor Scott & White Health. Presently under construction in Irving, the Baylor, Scott & White Health Kinkeade Campus will serve the state of Texas. In appreciation for the donation, Robin revealed that the decision had been made to name the center, the Jan Rees-Jones Canine Center after one of Dallas’ great animal lovers.

The center located in Irving will provide intense training for specially bred and early-life preliminary trained dogs. At the center the dogs and the highly vetted human partners will go through additional training and bonding.

Joel Allison

Joel Allison

Jill Smith

Jill Smith

Terry Connor

Terry Connor

Trisha Wilson

Trisha Wilson

The jammed room of heady types like Baylor Health Care System and Baylor Scott & White CEO Joel Allison, Terry Connor, Board Chair Margo Goodwin, Richard Eiseman, Bob Sanford, Lisa Longino, Beverly Nichols, Leonard Riggs, Elizabeth Denton, Maurine Dickey, Jill Smith, Anita Arnold, Bob Kaminksi, Lindalyn Adams, Cynthia Krause and Keenan Delaney, received the news with applause.

Ed Kinkeade

Ed Kinkeade

But the program was just starting. Federal Judge Ed Kinkeade told his fellow board members of his dog Beau and their participation in the Baylor Animal Assisted Therapy program that had made him aware of the importance animals served in helping patient regain healthier lives.

He told of his early involvement with the program and attributed it to Baylor AAT head Linda Marler, who was seated in the back of the room with her therapy dog Eli. Linda coordinates 90 teams of animals and humans and their work at the North Texas health care centers.

Then Ed became a stellar storyteller and cheerleader. Perfectly blending humor with touching recalls of his partnership with Beau, he had CEO’s and philanthropists charmed.

Jason Morgan

Jason Morgan

The final speaker of the day was Ret. Staff Sergeant Jason Morgan, who told of his debilitating “accident” in South America during his military service.

Seated in his wheelchair with his canine companion, Rue, at his side, he told how they had only recently become partners. His previous canine Napal had been a turning point in his life. His wife had left him with three boys to raise. He had faced numerous surgeries including the loss of his leg. But the dog had been more than an aid. Jason told how when he finally accomplished a life-long goal of accomplishing a marathon, he looked to the finish line and there was Napal waiting for him. That joy amazed even him.

On a side note, he shared that before Napal had entered his life, he sensed people kept their distance due to his being in a wheelchair. But that all changed with Napal at his side. Now people gravitated to “the man with the cool dog.”

As Jason told of his struggles and the difference that CCI had made, grown CEO-types and veteran fundraisers teared up.

Rue

Rue

Napal died last year and CCI came through with Rue. She’s turned out to be a perfect companion and representative of the program.

Following the luncheon and while waiting for their cars afterward, Jill Smith and Tricia Wilson told how they understood and had witnessed personally the impact of animals in the process of healing.

Come summer, the center is scheduled to graduate its first class of canine companion teams.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about adopting one of the pooches that don’t quite make the cut, get in line. It’s a long one because the dogs that don’t qualify usually end up with their puppy trainers. But, you can always try.

The Rees-Jones Foundation Provides $2M For Canine Companions For Independence At Baylor, Scott & White Health Kinkeade Campus

Forget that morning “wake-up” coffee. The Rees-Jones Foundation is providing the perfect way to start the day for a second day in a row! It’s been revealed that the Foundation has provided a $2M-grant for the creation of the Canine Companions for Independence at Baylor, Scott & White Health Kinkeade Campus in partnership with Baylor Scott & White Health. With the help of philanthropy, Baylor will take care of the $9M costs of building and maintaining the facility, while Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) will be responsible for the day-in-day-out management.

Canine Companions for Independence at Baylor, Scott & White Health Kinkeade Campus*

Canine Companions for Independence at Baylor, Scott & White Health Kinkeade Campus*

Considered the country’s leading source of service dogs, the CCI started back in 1975 and thanks to Jean Schulz and her late husband/cartoonist Charles “Papa of Snoopy” Schulz, it has flourished bringing together “exceptional dogs with exceptional people.” The program is an intense…no, make that extremely intense program for both canines and humans. But the results literally change the lives of men and women, both physically and emotionally.

With Jan Rees-Jones seated at a table, the packed room of community leaders and philanthropists at the Baylor Health Care System Foundation Board luncheon Tuesday had no idea the announcement was going to be made. Instead they were prepared to learn about this remarkable, life-changing program that would serve as the CCI South Central Region encompassing all of Texas.

Rue

Rue

Designed by T Howard and Associates, the center will provide the ideal facilities for the training of specially bred dogs like Rue and preparing the human/canine teams for their lives together. It will have 24 kennels and between six and eight dormitory rooms that are especially designed for humans with cognitive and physical challenges. According to CCI, the ultimate goal is to graduate 60 teams a year.

While some folks may think 60 doesn’t seem like a huge number, realize that last year CCI produced 289 partnerships. The next largest provider of service animals resulted in around 50 teams last year.

To show its appreciation for the Rees-Jones Foundation’s gift, Baylor Health Care System Foundation President Robin Robinson announced that the center would be called The Jan Rees-Jones Canine Center.

Located in Irving and slated to open this summer, the center is the first partnership between CCI and a health care institution.

Thanks to the Rees-Jones Foundation, the Baylor Scott & White folks and other philanthropists, this landmark could be just the beginning of future CCI/healthcare groups working together for the betterment and wellbeing of people in need.

More deets will follow in the days ahead, but did want you to start your day off with great news. If you want to know firsthand how CCI has made a life-changing difference in the lives of disabled humans, watch the video of retired-Staff Sergeant Jason Morgan, who brought tears to the eyes of those present, while his “canine companion” Rue lay by his side. He laughed that she was probably a bit weary hearing his story.

BTW, they’re signing up volunteers for the program and still welcoming donations that will benefit the Kinkeade Campus.

* Graphic provided by Baylor Health Care System Foundation