Outreach on Four Paws
KEET Outreach Director Claire Reynolds wanted to use the PBS special, "The Forgetting" to reach individuals and families affected by Alzheimer's disease. First, KEET produced a documentary on local resources and needs. Reynolds then sent American Medical Association Dementia Guides to area health care professionals. Short spots aired between programs offered information for families and caregivers. But, KEET wanted to offer more than information, the station wanted to touch people's lives.
KEET's outreach to the community came on four, furry paws. In collaboration with the Eureka, California Humane Society, Alzheimer's Resource Center, Prescription Pets, and the Delta Society, KEET laid the groundwork for Pet Partners, a volunteer-led program that brings people and animals together.
"We wanted a positive outreach. Pet Partners is all about touch, love, and contact with life," Reynolds said.
KEET was both initiator and vision-carrier. Reynolds found experienced Pet Partner trainers in nearby Redding. A PBS outreach grant funded three weekend training sessions. Humane Society contacts and KEET's on-air promotion reached interested volunteers.
Now, four years later, Eureka's Alzheimer's Resource Center director Maggie Kraft takes her dog, Nevada, on Pet Partner visits. "It's amazing," Kraft said. "The animals don't ask for anything. They aren't disappointed if someone can't remember. They just love and interact."
Reynolds called the Pet Partners project a "spark for community action." KEET and Pet Partners created a way for community members to enrich the lives of people with Alzheimer's. Today, Pet Partner volunteers serve in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice settings. Volunteer training has become an annual event. The Human Society and Pet Partners have continued the program.
"Our PBS station started this," said Judy Scott, Pet Partner volunteer and owner of two, beautiful "partners" Bella and Starla. "The program empowered people. Look at where we started and how far it's gone."