Yesterday, we arrived in the bustling metropolis of Burlington.
A kind stranger by the name of Kathy let us camp behind her house. When she found out about our therapy visits, she told us that she works with a children’s home in the area, and they would love a visit. She got us contact information for the Burlington United Methodist Family Services organization, a mere block from her home. This morning (after coffee and cake for breakfast) we walked over and met with the staff.
Matthew, the vice president of the campus, gave us some background. The facility houses about 34 children, ages 8-18, who are wards of the state. Most of them come from situations involving neglect or abuse, and they can be hard to place in foster care or adoption. Matt explained that it is easy to find placement for babies and toddlers, but once they grow out of the “cute” phase and become teenagers, it gets much harder to find them reliable foster homes. So they live here, and most also go to school on campus until they are able to join public schools. It reminded us of why we encourage people to adopt older dogs – everyone loves a new puppy, but the older dogs often get overlooked through no fault if their own.
We got to visit several classes, and talk to the students about animal-assisted therapy and our Walk. It was the first time we got to work with an older group if kids, and they seemed to identify so well with the idea of pet therapy. They were calm and curious, and clearly loved Max and Grace.
It is clear that children in this type of challenging situation stand to gain a lot of comfort and support from having animals to live and learn with. I heard many of the kids tell their teachers that they should have some dogs on campus – some wanted us to leave Max and Grace behind! So we let them borrow our pups for a moment.
We want to thank the staff and residents of the BUMFS campus for welcoming us into their lives. The students were so receptive to what we had to say, and what the dogs had to offer. Kids, you inspire us to keep working to help those in need. Keep it up!
After joining the students for lunch in the cafeteria (and picking up some bear and mountain-type advice from the staff) we headed southwest. I swear, if I stopped to take a picture of every beautiful thing in this state, I would never make it across. PICTURES!
We found a nice house to camp behind in Williamsport tonight. Tomorrow, we will push to somewhere called Streby, and from there we will tackle the toughest climb of our entire Walk. Wish us luck.