Sheryl Werner and her two dogs, Trace a Havanese and Riley a Bichon Frise, started volunteering with Gabriel’s Angels twelve years ago. They visited the Salvation Army homeless shelter twice a month until Covid restricted their visits. Once things started opening up, Sheryl was asked to volunteer with the Gabriel’s Angels ABC Program at Longview Elementary in Phoenix, with her two pawtners. They also participated in many fundraisers and promotional events around the Valley along with GA staff.
Sheryl remembers that there were many visits that brought joy for the shelter families at the Salvation Army. The children (and many times adults as well) had fun while Sheryl conducted activities, facilitating through Trace and Riley, helping them build confidence while working on their self-regulation and empathy. She felt that it was amazing to see the response to positive reinforcement in action!
As a volunteer with the ABC Program, Sheryl had the opportunity to experience individual interaction for a longer period of time. The first semester had her hooked as she watched reading skills grow and shyness turn to confidence. She’ll never forgot one of her students who spoke in such a low voice that she could barely hear him, but by the end of their sessions, he was helping other students to read. Another class prepared a special Christmas program for the Pet Therapy team, thanking them for being there and gave the team a gift from proceeds they earned at the school festival.
When Sheryl was asked about the special qualities that she thought Trace and Riley brought to their visits, Sheryl said, “Both Riley, Trace and my first therapy dog, Abby, all have/had gentle and loving personalities along with instinctively knowing where they were supposed to be. They just seemed to know they were needed. We still go for walks and they immediately go toward the kids that are around!”
Sheryl, Trace and Riley enjoyed volunteering for Gabriel’s Angels because it gave them an opportunity to work with an organization that identified a need in our community. Sheryl felt that they could impact lives through pet therapy and hopefully make even a small difference in a child’s life. She also appreciated the training and support from everyone within the organization. Sheryl expressed, “I’m so glad that I found the GA booth on my weekend walk with Abby…it led me to an amazing and personally rewarding twelve year experience. I so enjoyed meeting the wide range of people in the community working to improve the lives of these kids and hope to see the organization touch these kids for many more years!”
Thank you Sheryl, Trace and Riley for sharing your comfort, caring and compassion to the community and children we serve here at Gabriel’s Angels. We all are so very grateful to have had you all as part of our Gabriel’s Angels family. You all will be sorely missed! Happy Retirement!