By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman High School students went wild and cheered on Homecoming King and Queen Jake Pyle and Maggie Marcum as they presented Dr. John Otto, a local veterinarian, with a check for more than $4,000 to benefit the Friends for Folks program at the school pep assembly on Friday.
After Norman High students viewed the informational video, “Dogs of Lexington,” last spring, the student government association wanted to help Friends for Folks, a program that brings
students, therapy dogs and the state correctional program together. Marcum explained that every year all the homecoming nominees compete to raise funds for a good cause.
“We sell baked goods and it’s a lot of fun,” Marcum said. “My psychology teacher, Dr. Hemphill, brought the program to my attention. I’m glad we could help!”
Inmates at Lexington Correctional Center in Friends for Folks are assigned to a dog to train. The inmate can learn the benefits of patience, empathy, being persistent and being responsible with another living thing. The inmate also gets to experience unconditional love and what it feels like to help others. Once the dogs are trained, they are placed with forever families who benefit by being able to adopt a dog that is well-trained and well-socialized. Many of the dogs go on to be therapy dogs and are used in schools and veterans’ centers.
Dr. Otto said the funds donated by Norman High would go to buying a washer and dryer as well as increasing the number of dogs in the program from 10 to 15.
The Friends for Folks program is currently working with three dogs to be taken to Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud. Otto said the program plans to expand to Mabel Bassett by January.
“We had about 400 women apply for three spots,” Otto said.
A $10,000 grant from the Harris Foundation will fund the filming of a new documentary to be titled “Bassett Tales” that will focus on how to make a program like Friends for Folks. Otto also hopes to expand the use of dogs who have completed the program to mental health facilities.
“The program brings out compassion and breaks down barriers,” Otto said. “The dogs are a liaison for communication. That’s why it’s so successful.”
For more information about Friends for Folks, visit friendsforfolks.org.
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