Students participate in Pet Walk for community service hours, raise awareness for therapy animals


Helen Graham ’21, Sadye Lackman ’22, Viktoria Ekstrand ’25, Sophia Ekstrand ’20, Erica Ekstrand ’20, staff writer and layout assistant Sophia Musante ’22, Melody Tang ’22 and Paisley Kandler ’22 pose for a team picture with their pets. Credit: Caitlin Chung/Chronicle

Sophia Musante

Students supported Paws Helping Hands, an organization which provides comfort and raises donations for those living in difficult situations, by participating in Pet Partners’ World’s Largest Pet Walk at Hotchkiss Park in Santa Monica on Sept. 28.

Students supported Paws Helping Hands through Pet Walk

Sophia Ekstrand ’20, a facilitator of the school’s participation in the walk said the event was a collaboration between Paws Helping Hands and Pet Partners.

“Pet Partners registers, trains and supports thousands of therapy animal teams who share the healing power of pets with people in need, and the impact of these therapy animal visits is felt over three million times a year,” Ekstrand said.

Ekstrand, who connected with Paws Helping Hands four years ago, is a youth therapy handler and regularly volunteers for the organization.

“Since becoming certified as a therapy animal handler with my dog, we have been volunteering regularly at an assisted living home in Studio City for more than two years,” Ekstrand said. “Seeing the smiles and faces light up every time we walk through the door is amazing, and the interactions that I have with the residents while they are happily petting my dog are incredibly rewarding.”

Pet Walk encouraged students to reach out to the community

While at the event, students walked their pets, met therapy animals and learned about the organization. The purpose of the walk was to raise money and awareness for the organizations, Ekstrand said.

“The event is honoring [the city’s] 900 plus therapy animal teams, raising awareness of Pet Partners to spread the word on animal-assisted interventions and raising funds to continue to provide ongoing training and resources for all of our volunteers and the people they serve,” Ekstrand said.

Attendee Sadye Lackman ’22 said the event helped her learn about Paws Helping Hands.

“I really enjoyed meeting new dogs and their owners and learning about therapy dogs and their importance,” Lackman said.

Ekstrand said she felt Paws Helping Hands and Pet Partners’ mission united with the school’s mission of a purpose beyond itself.

“We hope that people took away the importance of therapy animals in our community and continue to support Pet Partners through donations and joining events in the future,” Ekstrand said.