The total cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States is over $94 billion. Arizona ranks 37th out of the 50 states in overall child well-being. Gabriel's Angels Pets Helping Kids is an organization that works to make a difference in Arizona. Their mission is to permanently interrupt the cycle of violence that is haunting abused and neglected children by giving them hope for a bright future, creating a smile where none existed, encouraging self-esteem instead of self-doubt and trust replacing betrayal. This mission is supported by Pet Therapy teams.
Sheryl Girard and her dog Shiloh, determined to make a difference, became a Pet Therapy Team and were certified in 2005 receiving a "Complex 3" qualification by the Delta Society Pet Partners Program which trains, screens and certifies volunteers and their pets for visiting animal programs. Girard and Shiloh began their volunteer career in 2005 with Gabriel's Angels which provides a service to the underserved population of abused, neglected and at-risk children. Girard and Shiloh are trained to reconfirm and nurture a child's ability to love and trust again, thereby freeing them from the cycle of violence.
During 2006, Girard and Shiloh extended their volunteer service to the Foundation for Burns and Trauma Inc. an organization that assists burn victims in becoming survivors through interactions with Shiloh. Pet Therapy Teams offer unconditional love, teach respect, empathy and trust to children who have been victims of abuse or are at risk of abuse. Their visits provide comfort and security to these children. Children from both organizations begin to believe in their ability to accomplish difficult tasks, learn that trust does not lead to disappointment or hurt and enhance their self-esteem.
Girard and Shiloh served more than 480 children for Gabriel's Angels while visiting with groups of 5th and 6th graders and teenage boys and girls living in group homes/rehabilitation centers. The number of children served at Foundation of Burns and Trauma 2006 Camp Courage was about 100. Girard and Shiloh are returning to Camp Courage's annual retreat in June 2007 where they will once again be part of the treatment for the children attending.
In addition to the Pet Therapy activity, Girard volunteers hundreds of hours per year, to the Phoenix Zoo, Arizona State Parks, and many activities proposed through her employer, Salt River Project (SRP). She has been volunteering since 1993 and continues to be a very active and valuable community resource. Girard believes that children deserve to be nurtured and loved and she fosters this philosophy each time she helps an abused or scared child.