During the last week of April and the first week of May, the fourth grade students in Ms. Barton’s class at Velma-Alma school enjoy a much anticipated lesson in compassion. Through a combination of classroom instruction, special projects, interaction with handicapped animals and fundraising efforts, children learn the importance of accepting differences and protecting and providing for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Over the course of two weeks, the fourth graders devote a portion of each school day to learning ways that people can assist handicapped pets to live healthy, happy lives by providing accommodations such as specialized care and equipment to help them overcome their unique challenges. This year’s educational series included a pet parade which featured 55 dogs, 3 cats, 1 pony and even a lizard proudly marching in support of learning compassion.
The program finale is scheduled for Friday, May 8, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. and will include a variety of student performances, a presentation by local veterinarian Dr. Robinson as well as a petting area featuring handicapped animals. The price of admission to the program is fifty cents. Proceeds from admission, concessions and additional donations will be used to purchase wheelchairs for pets in need.
Since 2005, Ms. Barton and her students have provided wheelchairs for a dozen animals. This year, Kathy and her students hope to raise enough funds to provide wheelchairs for a total of four pets. Among this year’s candidates for wheelchairs are a cat named Hugs that was born without front legs, a 9-year old Labrador/Boxer mix named Nigel, a Pit Bull named Fandango and a three-legged Labrador retriever named Sierra.
The program began back in 2005 when Kathy Barton adopted her own special needs dog Hope who was born deaf and blind. From the very first moment that Hope began interacting with her fourth graders, Kathy realized that she had discovered a powerful learning opportunity. The children were naturally curious and concerned about Hope’s disability and immediately began brainstorming about ways they could reach out to other handicapped pets in need. Ms. Barton and her class posted their offer to provide fundraising assistance on the discussion forum at HandicappedPets.com and began connecting with owners of special needs pets.
“The program has grown beyond my expectations, and the animals have had such a positive impact on the children’s ability to accept differences,” explained Ms. Barton as she reflected on the fifth anniversary of her “How Do You Teach Compassion” curriculum.
“I was undergoing chemo treatments when the school year began. I had completely lost my hair. I decided that a wig was too uncomfortable, so my bald head was an obvious difference. The students accepted me, treated me as if I had a full head of hair and encouraged me through my treatments. This is what the handicapped pets and I teach in this program – that we are all the same on the inside,” Barton concluded.
Contributions towards Ms. Barton's class project to purchase wheelchairs for Hugs, Nigel, Fandango and Sierra may also be made online at the Handicapped Pets Foundation website. Please enter "Kathy Barton's Fund" in the purpose line located on the donation page.
HandicappedPets.com provides everything – products, services, and support – pet caretakers need to help their disabled, injured, or elderly pets enjoy healthy, happy, active lives. The company's signature product is the Walkin' Wheels dog wheelchair - the industry's only fully adjustable dog wheelchair. The veterinarian approved Walkin' Wheels dog wheelchair is comfortable and stylish, and it folds flat for convenient travel with your canine companion. Additional information is available online at www.HandicappedPets.com (888) 811-PETS (7387)