Volunteer is honored for establishing the Doggie Brigade at Akron Children’s Hospital.
The Employee Foundation Council (EFC) at Akron Children’s Hospital has presented volunteer Chris Witschey with its Distinguished Service Award for 2017.
The award was presented to Witschey by Akron Children’s Hospital CEO Bill Considine in a ceremony on Jan. 24.
Witschey has volunteered alongside 5 of her dogs in the hospital’s Doggie Brigade™, sponsored by Milk-Bone, since 2005. She is only the third volunteer to receive this award in the program’s 39-year history.
The EFC Distinguished Service Award was established in 1979 to recognize the contributions of the hospital’s then chief executive officer Roger Sherman, and has since been awarded every year to an employee, physician or volunteer who demonstrates exemplary leadership, loyalty, dedication and service. Honorees are nominated by employees and voted upon by EFC.
Witschey, who volunteers 5 days a week in the hospital’s day rehabilitation and partial hospitalization programs, is known to adopt rescue dogs with physical disabilities and spends months training them to obey commands – even teaching her 3 deaf dogs to respond to sign language. Her dogs respond to commands like “sit” “stand” “stay” and “come” from patients and therapists too.
Akron Children’s physical therapist Sarah Brown says working with Witschey and her dogs helps to provide distraction and emotional support when patients are scared or upset.
“I’ll have patients hide treats in the therapy gym for one of the dogs to find, allowing them to practice activities of daily living like walking, kneeling and picking things up,” she said. “Chris and the dogs help motivate the kids to want to work while making it fun.”
“Receiving the DSA award is overwhelming because of the awareness it creates for the impact dogs can have on improving patient outcomes,” Witschey said.
Witschey resides in Wadsworth, Ohio.
Learn more at akronchildrens.org.