The free stuffed animals drew polite interest from the group of seniors sitting in the commons area at Parkview Care Center.
But when the School District 2 middle schoolers, volunteering there Tuesday morning, pulled out the cookies, the room’s excitement index jumped a couple points.
“That’s what I’ve been waiting for,” Otto Muller called out, wearing a wide grin.
For about an hour Tuesday morning, the middle-school students worked with volunteers from the support organization Angel Horses and distributed stuffed animals and holiday treats to the residents at Parkview.
Along for the ride was Tally Ho, Angel Horse’s therapy dog, who carries the stuffed animals in a backpack. Residents spent time petting and cuddling with Tally Ho after picking out a stuffed animal.
“We try to do this in the winter months,” said Roz Cottrill, who runs Angel Horses.
Angel Horses, through the use of rescued horses and donkeys, offers animal therapy in the form of rides and companionship to special-needs children, at-risk youth, senior citizens, and individuals and families affected by illnesses, especially cancer.
The group has an outdoor facility where they usually operate. When the weather turns cold, they move indoors to look for ways to carry on their mission, which often leads to senior care facilities like Parkview.
Eighth-grader Journey Krank has been part of community service projects at Parkview in the past. When her teacher announced they’d be visiting on Tuesday, she looked forward to the trip.
“I was ready to come in and help,” she said.
Krank, along with classmates Abby Bisele and Aquila Stallcup, baked the holiday cookies they passed out. Quincy Pfiester, also an eighth-grader, was there to help.
“You get to see how excited they get,” Quincy said.
School District 2 contacted Cottrill about putting the visit together and Cottrill jumped at the chance. She said its important, especially during winter, that seniors in care facilities have opportunities to interact with others and with animals.
“It’s a simple pleasure,” she said. “Most of these folks, they’ve had pets, they’ve had horses.”
The chance to again interact with animals, even if it’s just Tally Ho and his backpack full of stuffed toys, can have a real impact, she said.
“You can tell,” she said. “They get pretty darn excited about this.”