Volunteer of the Year
Our volunteers are the heart and soul of Paws & Think. Thanks for all that you do!
If you are interested in volunteering, please contact us. We would love to talk with you about the possibilities.
2018 Volunteer of the Year:
Debbie Ryan first learned about Paws & Think after coming across our booth at the Mutt Strut event in 2012. She says she wanted to get involved because of her dog, Maggie: “She had that ‘therapy dog’ personality, and I wanted to share that with others.” Maggie was a Golden mix who Debbie described as “calm, very friendly, and eager to meet people, especially kids.” They soon started volunteering together as a therapy team with Paws & Think, regularly visiting classroom #14 at Grassy Creek Elementary School for the Paws to Read program.
What Debbie loves most about Paws & Think is the focus on the human/animal bond. She says she has seen it do great things, as simple as brightening someone’s day and as monumental as providing a reading breakthrough for a child. She reflects on many memorable moments with the students in classroom #14 and explains that because she and Maggie visited there regularly, they were able to develop a relationship with the kids and the teacher. “I loved sharing my dog to brighten a person’s day, put a smile on their face, and help to encourage kids to improve their reading skills.”
Maggie crossed the rainbow bridge last year, at the age of 14 and after 4 years of volunteering with Paws & Think. In addition to visiting Grassy Creek Elementary, Debbie and Maggie also went to Irvington Library, Indy Reads Books, IUPUI, Adult & Child Health, Brooke’s Place, and volunteered as the neutral team at the therapy skills training classes. Debbie says that Maggie loved her Paws & Think job, and all who met her loved her too.
Debbie has one other dog, Odin, a 3.5-year old mutt who she says may or may not be able to become a therapy dog someday. She continues to stay actively engaged with Paws & Think, going above and beyond to serve the organization in a variety of ways. She volunteers as a Coach for the Hamilton County Youth-Canine program, helps with the therapy skills training classes, and is a part of Bark Blankets, the group that sews blankets for the shelter dogs in our Youth-Canine programs. Debbie will also be teaching Paws & Think’s handler classes for new therapy teams, and she assists with other venues and outreach events as needed.
When she is not volunteering with Paws & Think, Debbie works part time as a registered nurse at Community Surgery Center. She also enjoys gardening and spending time with her family. She and her husband have two daughters, ages 23 and 21, so they are empty nesters now and enjoy spending time with their dog, Odin.
Previous Volunteers of the Year:
Volunteer of the Year: Lynsey Smith
Volunteer of the Year: Wendy Hendricks
Volunteer of the Year: Diane Aurand
Volunteer of the Year: Susan Pratt
Volunteer of the Year: Margaret Drew
Volunteer of the Year: Tom Janes
Volunteer of the Year: Lisa Snyder
Volunteer of the Year: Carol Davenport
Volunteer of the Year: Rhaya Shilts
Volunteer of the Year: Debbie Feltz
Youth Volunteer of the Year: Sara Gibson
Adult Volunteer of the Year: Jodi Van Slyke
Youth Volunteer of the Year: Amanda Clevenger
Adult Volunteer of the Year (inaugural): Jill Boyer
Youth Volunteer of the Year: Leslie Hannah
Youth Volunteer of the Year (inaugural): Keith Diemer