York Community Resource Center welcomed Aimee Maas, Outreach Community Counseling Center (OCCC) animal assisted therapist, and her therapy dog, Paddington, to its summer youth program on July 8. Both the elementary and junior high students were in attendance.

Lathie Norton, York site director, said the visit was exactly what she and her staff hoped for. She noticed that students who are often anxious or who started out a little unsure eventually relaxed and ultimately engaged Paddington, seeming to feel empowered when he responded to the commands Aimee taught them to give. “Paddington helped them access their power in a calm and controlled way,” she said. “This is a special kind of gift, especially for children, who sometimes feel pretty powerless in happenings of the world around them.”

One elementary student remarked, “I loved giving him treats and doing tricks with him.” Another said she loved “his little bear face,” and another noted that Paddington was “so nice and careful” and that it made him act the same way.

Aimee and Paddington, who usually work with one client at a time in counseling sessions, thoroughly enjoyed the chance to visit a group of students at a fellow Outreach site. “We both had SO much fun!” she said. “I’ve always had such a special feeling about York and the work done there – our visit just confirmed that for me. Our visit might have been one of Paddington’s favorite days of his three years of life. His tail must be tired from all that wagging!”

York Community Resource Center youth programs for elementary and junior high students combine academic performance, recreation and life skills activities. Academic assistance gives students the educational foundation they need and life skills classes teach students decision-making strategies, the importance of self-control, effective strategies for resolving conflict and how to succeed in life. Students also take part in community service projects.