On March 2, a tornado with an estimated category of F4 swept through Southern Indiana turning life upside down for thousands of families. Coming to the aid of their fellow Hoosiers, many organizations, businesses and individuals have given countless hours, finances and prayers to ease their burdens. Now, a less traditional method of bringing comfort to those affected by the tornado’s destruction has partnered with The Salvation Army and is being delivered not by humans but by animals – specifically, of the canine kind. Animal-assisted therapy teams from the organization HOPE Animal Assisted Crisis Response,  have visited residents in the tornado-stricken areas.

Since November 2001, HOPE AACR has grown to have more than 100 certified crisis response teams in five regions that cover 34 states. Members of HOPE have responded to all manner of crises, including major hurricanes, wildfires, train derailments, and school shootings. The training and education program continues to evolve as teams encounter new challenges working in this much needed endeavor.” (hopeaacr.org)

Gayle Sprinkle with Charlie, and Deirdre Stanon with Brie assisted Captain Cynthia Shiels of The Salvation Army, in bringing smiles and joy to the survivors.  “It’s amazing to see.  People come up to the dogs and give them a hug.  You can see their stress start to go down and they just light up.  Pretty soon they’re opening up about their experience and their needs,” says Captain Shiels.

In addition to the huge success with the animal therapy teams, The Salvation Army continues to assist families into the second week of tornado recovery. As of Monday, March 12, more than 9,500 meals have been served since the Army began service in Southern Indiana.  In Borden, more than 40 families received Emergency Financial Assistance over the weekend.  The Salvation Army began handing out Emergency Financial Assistance in Henryville today.  More than 150 Emergency Disaster Service volunteers have put in 2,360 hours in the Army’s response efforts.

The Salvation Army will continue its efforts in Southern Indiana.