A program launched by the Marin Humane Society to help kids with autism, could soon be going nationwide.
The program is called Jumping For Joy, and it pairs kids living with autism with dogs. They're given the goal of guiding the dogs through an agility course, while building communication and mutual trust. The program was the brainchild of Rachel Blackman, who launched it as a teenage volunteer, then watched it take off.
"Lots of kids were interested in doing it and the kids who did it wanted to come back. So I kind of knew, hey we can make this a little bigger," says Blackman.
Several groups approached Marin Humane Society about Jumping For Joy. So Rachel and education coordinator Chelsea Fairbanks began putting together a curriculum along with a how-to course on setting the program up.
"So that would probably be the biggest challenge, is making sure you have the volunteers and dogs you want to work with," says Fairbanks.
The team got an initial boost with a $10,000 grant from the Mental Insight Foundation. With the extra money they were able to present Jumping For a Joy at national conference for humane educators in South Carolina.
"And that has sparked a ton of interest across the U.S., which is really exciting," adds Blackman.
They're now hoping to take Jumping For Joy nationwide. Potentially giving thousands of kids the chance to break the barriers of autism through a special bond they build themselves.
And as proof that big things can start small. Rachel Blackman actually started Jumping For Joy as a merit project when she was in the girl scouts.
Written and produced by Tim Didion
Bay Area autism program expanding