Cormac couldn't express gratitude to Creekside Elementary School second-graders in words for their kind donation to his cause.
Instead, the Golden Retriever from the Children's Hospital Prescription Pet Program showed recognition in another way, happily wagging his tail as a line of students took turns patting and petting him on the head. It was the dog's way of acknowledging the student's hard work in raising more than $600 for the Pet Program, which connects young patients at The Children's Hospital in Aurora with animals like Cormac for a therapeutic and healing effect.
Cormac, along with his owner and handler Darby Kelly, visited Creekside on May 22 to formally accept the donation and to tell students and staff about a program that's meant so much for so many patients and families.
"When Cormac is at the hospital, he knows he's there to work. He's very serious," Kelly said, describing Cormac's rounds. "He comes in to patient's rooms, and they can pet him. They'll sit on the floor with them."
Cormac's spirit of kindness and selflessness tied in to a larger theme for the Creekside second-graders, who've spent the year learning how individuals can make profound and meaningful differences in their communities as part of their social studies unit. Specifically, the students have been focused on the acronym BALTO (Bring a Light to Others), a name that tied in to their studies of the Iditarod race in Alaska. The lesson was a joint effort between second-grade team members Kathy Paulson, Mary Martinez, Stephanie Musick, Rajeeb Pradhan, and Erika Ressler, as well as principal Kelly Sommerfeld.
Balto was one of the sled dogs in the first dog derby, which started as a means of transporting medicine and other essential supplies to residents in remote communities. The name seemed a fitting inspiration for the students' commitment to service, which they showed in their dogged work to raise money for the Pet program. They spent months organizing the fundraising effort, selling items like pencils and wrist bands to benefit the work of Cormac and his peers.
"We wanted them to figure out a way for them to make a difference," said second-grade teacher Kathy Paulson, who pointed to lessons on individuals like Cesar Chavez and a visit earlier in the year by Lyndon Villone and his service dog Ice from the Heel the Heroes project. "This was a natural tie-in for us."