Founded in 1995, East Coast Assistance Dogs, Inc. is a non-profit organization whose mission is to enable people with disabilities to gain greater independence and mobility through the use of specially trained dogs.
A unique feature about ECAD is that all of the dogs are trained by adolescents attending alternative schools on the campuses of residential treatment centers. The ECADemy© program takes place in five facilities in lower New York, all of which specialize in helping children with emotional, behavioral, and learning problems. “Since ECAD’s start in 1995 we have placed more than 100 dogs, and still every time I see how this program both empowers the teen trainers and the clients, it reconfirms that this is what I was destined to do,” says Lu Picard, co-founder and executive director of the program.
Amber Kingersky is an 11-year-old girl with muscular dystrophy. She is confined to a wheelchair and has limited use of her arms. Amber recently spent two weeks at the Dobbs Ferry Training Center on the campus of Children’s Village where she was marched with Garrison, a Golden Retriever.
Garrison is able to assist Amber by opening doors for her, turning on lights and retrieving items. “I have always wanted a service dog and that dream came true. Garrison has helped me become more independent and the best part is he can go everywhere with me,” says Amber.
Juan is a high school student at Children’s Village, a residential treatment center for at-risk teens. As vocational training, Juan works at ECAD as a trainer. In fact, he was one of the students who trained Garrison. “At times training Garrison was hard, however giving him up was harder. But once I saw Amber and Garrison together it became much easier for me to let him go,” says Juan.
For more information visit www.ecad1.org