W.A.G.S. 4 Kids is dedicated to providing mobility service and autism service animals, meeting the specific needs of children with disabilities in Northeast Ohio, utilizing our Award-Winning ODRC Accredited Cell Dog Training Program. We are driven by our belief in early intervention and will work with a family as early in a child’s life as there is a need and an interest.
All of the W.A.G.S. 4 Kids service dogs are currently trained at Grafton Correctional Institution (GCI) in Grafton, Ohio where 24 inmates work with each of 12 dogs always in the program. Each dog provides therapeutic, task, emotional and physical support for children with disabilities and their families. The work of the inmate trainers is guided by the professional training staff of W.A.G.S. and each placement family receives in home transition training and ongoing training support.
History & Impact
The idea of service animals trained specifically to meet the special needs of children was nearly unheard of in 2004. It was Wendy Nelson Crann, an animal trainer and Ed Crann, a former special education teacher who developed the reality back in 2004, of what today is Working Animals Giving Service for Kids. It is an organization founded and built in Northeast Ohio for the children here, in our own back yard. The needs of local children is what spoke so loudly to the Crann’ s back in 2004 and the special needs of children and their families continue to drive the growth of this organization. Working Animals Giving Service for Kids is entirely dedicated to empowering children with disabilities in Northeast Ohio by training and placing mobility service, and autism spectrum service animals.
In 2007, W.A.G.S. began its partnership with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections in what is today our Award winning Accredited Apprenticeship Service Dog Training Program. Currently housed in Grafton Correctional Institution, we train men who work hard to change their own lives, prepare to reenter society and learn what it means to make to dream of a child possible. Our history includes The MTC award for best inmate programming in 2013, the Cleveland Scene Magazine Reader’s Choice Best Charity Award for 2015 and the Best of Berea Award for Support Services in 2015 and 2016
Since our first placement in 2005 we have placed over 60 service dogs. Our focus on training our dogs to best assist a child ensures an immediate impact on their quality of life. Though our intention is always to enhance the wellness of a child we often cannot quantify the effects that our services have on the confidence, independence, and empowerment of a child’s future. From our very first placement with Myles, a four-year-old boy living with Cerebral Palsy in Strongsville, we have seen the strides that can come from the sense of power that service animals give. W.A.G.S. dog AJ, was partnered with Myles, living with paralysis on his left side. Nonverbal since birth, Myles communicated with simple sign language to let his parents know his wants and needs. In the final phase of AJ’ s training, the W.A.G.S. trainers stopped talking to AJ and worked exclusively with hand signs. When AJ went to live with Myles, that little boy had a dog he could command and tell what to do, on his own, with his right hand. He had a real dog of his own. Something his parents hadn’t thought possible. . As the days passed, Myles began to speak. His first word was not “Mommy” or “Daddy”, words his parents had waited so long to hear him say ...Myles said “Come”, clear as a bell, because he wanted to talk to his dog. Since that time, we have always posted the pictures of the children we serve and the dogs that we place with them. And once they are up on Facebook we always say “Let the magic begin!” Because that’s the reality of what these dogs can do and be in the lives of children with disabilities. Beyond Miles’ narrative, we have time and again seen the sense of autonomy that service animals can restore. Andrew, a 17-year-old North Ridgeville boy suffered a traumatic brain injury, is now learning to walk and talk again with the help of his service animal, Flynn. Olivia, a 14-year-old from Bay Village, lives with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Anxiety. Olivia is learning to reclaim her life with the companionship and coping mechanism that her service dog, Susie, helps to provide and reinforce. The demand for service dogs is already there. There are children with life altering mental, physical and emotional challenges that are waiting for their own partner for life.
Our Community Need
The goals of W.A.G.S. 4 kids are driven by our belief in early intervention and our ability to work with a family as early in a child’s life as there is an interest and a need. Our goal is to place more dogs with the children that need them. What makes the W.A.G.S. 4 Kids program unique is the personal commitment made to the families we serve. W.A.G.S. provides in-home transition training and ongoing placement training and support. We never require a family to travel away from their home, stay and pay for hotels in a place their child is not accustomed to. This “best practices” service is possible for us to accomplish as all placements remain in the Northeast Ohio area. It is always the children and the hands-on, on-going care that W.A.G.S. Staff trainers take in helping each child with their individual challenges, that is most important to W.A.G.S. 4 Kids. W.A.G.S. 4 Kids presents an opportunity for a child we see spending their life having things done to them and for them, to reach out physically, emotionally and engage with the world around them.
As the only 501(c)(3) organization in Ohio that exclusively provides service dogs for children with disabilities up to the age of 18 , W.A.G.S. 4 Kids provides niche services to families with nowhere else to go in seeking an animal custom-suited to their child’s needs. Our enduring goal is to secure what is the future for W.A.G.S 4 Kids. The lesson is the importance of our being here in Northeast Ohio for the families that will call next year and in five years. Our focus on early intervention and tailor-training our animals to their new companions allow us to uniquely fill the needs of those we serve. Geographically, our communities are your communities. Our model of continued support before and after animal placement makes us local and keeps us local. To date, we have placed over half of our dogs with families residing on the West Side of Cleveland, Ohio. Organizationally, we are proud to work with talented trainers, an engaged Board of Directors, and a tireless administrative support staff who wholeheartedly believe in our ability to affect change in the lives of disabled children. In addition to the children that we serve, we are inspired to work with trainers currently incarcerated within the Grafton Correctional Institution in Southwestern Ohio. Our goals are supported by partnering with these inmates, as we offer a workforce development program enabling real rehabilitative opportunity. We engage these men to spread positive change to the children that their animals go on to assist, and the tools to re-enter our community prepared with the skills to establish a productive and self-sustained future.
Where Your Money Goes
We are proud of the services that we are able to provide, and are always striving to reach more families. Each service dog that we train costs $28,000. During training, W.A.G.S. 4 Kids covers the cost of all food, housing, veterinary costs other necessary supplies and hours and hours of professional training, to ready them for their placement in service to a child. Each partner family commits to fund-raise $9,000.00 towards the expenses of a Service Dog placement. W.A.G.S. 4 Kids commits to funding the additional $19,000 of cost in homing each dog with a family. W.A.G.S. 4 Kids receives no government funding and is entirely dependent on the generosity of a very strong support network of our community and its leaders to fulfill our financial need. Our contributions are currently funded entirely through in-kind donations, the support of grants, sponsorship, and proceeds from hosted events.
We now have the opportunity to launch our highly anticipated Step By Step Training Academy, based on our very successful Workforce Development Program for the inmates at GCI in the coming year. Our success will empower the disabled youth of Northeast Ohio through the partnership of a mobility service or autism spectrum service dog trained by the inmates of Grafton Correctional Institution who will learn all the lessons of a way to live better. Trainers will visit the Grafton Correctional Institute on a weekly basis to assess the progress of each inmate with his assigned service dog in training. Weekly goals, skills basic to advanced placement specific task training, are taught to the group of 12 or more inmates and assignments and expectations are set for the next week. It is always the children and helping them with their individual challenges that is the most important to W.A.G.S. 4 KIDS. Nick Walczak and his partnership with his dog, Turner, is one of over 60 real life examples, examples of kids being able to say, “I’ m not lonely anymore.” And now, Nick looks forward to a life filled with opportunity instead of a future with only obstacles. It is with your support that there will be more to come.
Let Us Introduce Ourselves...
Wendy brings a lifetime of experience to W.A.G.S. 4 Kids. A second generation dog breeder and trainer, Wendy began participation in Junior Showmanship at the age of ten. Over fifty years later, she has never stopped her involvement in the rearing, training and caretaking of dogs. Her training experiences include both pure and mixed breed dogs, wolf hybrids and behavior modification training for problem behaviors and rescue dog socialization issues from trauma or mistreatment in group classes and as a private instructor.
In 2006, Wendy authored "Dog's Don't Speak English", a training manual that helps the layman pick a puppy and teach it to be a service dog, skilled companion animal or simply a tremendous pet. Her book has been the core protocol for The Accredited Apprenticeship Service Dog Training Program of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections in Grafton, Ohio. In 2013 it was named “Best Inmate Program in Ohio” by MTC. After years of putting into practice this successful program and training methods, her new expanded training program, including W.A.G.S. innovative Autism Spectrum Disorder Service Dog Training , “Step By Step”, will be published in 2016.
Wendy oversees all training aspects of the W.A.G.S. 4 Kids programs including in home interviews with applicant families, puppy selections, inmate training instruction and evaluations and transition training of specific dogs into each partner family. She is a member of the Delta Society, a Provider Member of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) and was chosen by the American Kennel Club as a registered evaluator for their Canine Good Citizen's qualification certifications. It is under Wendy's direction that W.A.G.S. 4 Kids has taken shape with a very specific agenda. The animals we train will meet the specific needs of children : to aide and assist, to involve and engage, to give opportunities for social interaction and emotional support, and to bring joy !
Director of Development & Special Events
216-586-5853 ext. 2
Sera Nelson is a woman of many talents, she is the Director of Development and Special Events for the “Charity That Cleveland Grew”, Working Animals Giving Service for Kids. Sera is a graduate of Gilmour Academy and Ohio University. She received her degree in Communications, with a focus on Marketing & Promotions. With Gilmour's focus on community service guiding her, Sera spent her early career working in non-profit development and brand management for Higher Education. Sera was a founding Trustee and Board Member in 2004, shaping and supporting the W.A.G.S. 4 Kids mission of training and placing Service Dogs exclusively to children with disabilities in the Northeast Ohio area. At an early age, Sera’s own diagnosis of epilepsy fueled her passion and drive from a personal understanding of all the abilities that can exist in the life of a child faced with the challenges of disability.
In 2012, Sera left the corporate world to devote a full time effort to her niche in the non-profit sector. Her success in building relationships, creating awareness and support, has statistically doubled W.A.G.S. 4 Kids paw print on the community and in the organization’s financial stability. In just the last year she has created and developed the W.A.G.S. 4 Kids Youth Empowerment Program, “Kids Who Can!” Relationships were built through 4-H clubs, The Boy Scouts of America, High School and Middle School groups, and the nationally recognized “Magnified Giving” organization. Sera’s program teaches today’s youth to participate and do the things they love in such a way that will lead to the betterment of another child who needs their help.
Since 2013, Sera has chaired the highly successful signature event “Cleveland Have A Heart” Charity Date Raffle along with a series of spin-off “Love At First Bite” singles mixers – a purposeful meeting experience for professional singles. Single or Taken, it’s a great time for an event better cause…W.A.G.S. 4 Kids! The event has resulted in countless romantic encounters including dozens of long-term relationships and even one marriage! In 2015 CLE Have A Heart garnered national attention when Sera was asked to help produce a dating segment matching one local lady with 10 eligible Cleveland Bachelors for The Steve Harvey TV Show. During her first phone call the producers asked “Are you the Cleveland Matchmaker?” And the moniker stuck.
In her spare time, Sera has stayed very involved in the young professional community. Past favorites include two years as Representative of Social Affairs for the Cleveland Young Professional Senate, working with United Way’s Youth Opportunities Unlimited as a Summer Program Administrator and she continues to volunteer with City Dogs Cleveland and seasonally with Ohio Homecoming’s CLE NYE.
Director of Training, Northeast Ohio
216-586-5853 ext. 3
Certified by the National School for Dog Trainers' Master Training Course, Lisa has been a professional dog trainer since 1995. Lisa came to her role as Senior Trainer at Working Animals Giving Service for Kids through her work raising and breeding golden retriever puppies with Misty Meadows Kennels. Many of her puppies have graduated the W.A.G.S. 4 Kids training program and have gone on to serve the needs of children with disabilities and families across Northeast Ohio.
Lisa has served as Director of Training for Working Animals Giving Service for Kids since its founding in 2004, and also leads W.A.G.S.' cell dog training program at North Central Correctional Facility in Marion, OH. In addition to training service animals with W.A.G.S. 4 Kids, Lisa also serves the NE Ohio animal community with her business Dog Watch of Cleveland - Hidden Fences. Her greatest accomplishment, however, is her daughter, Madison.
Director of Training, Central Ohio
Certified by the W.A.G.S. 4 Kids Dog Trainers' Apprenticeship Program at North Central Correctional Complex, Rodney Houghton joined the W.A.G.S. 4 Kids Accredited Apprenticeship Service Dog Training Program in December of 2008 at North Central Correctional Institution in Marion, OH. Rodney has worked as a Sr. Trainer since 2009 and is now leading the expansion of the W.A.G.S. 4 Kids program to Central Ohio.
Certified by the W.A.G.S. 4 Kids Dog Trainers' Apprenticeship Program at North Central Correctional Complex, Josh received his certification in 2008 and helped train 18 service and skilled companion dogs during his apprenticeship. Since his release in December 2011, Josh has stayed dedicated to W.A.G.S. 4 Kids assisting with our in-home transition training. As a certified W.A.G.S. Staff trainer, Josh's responsibility will be to execute the W.A.G.S. 4 Kids Dog Trainers' Apprenticeship Program curriculum at Grafton Correctional Institution and educate the Grafton Project participants.
Carol Arroyo joined Working Animals Giving Service for Kids (W.A.G.S.) in 2016 as their Controller. Carol brings more than 25 years accounting experience to the team. Her background includes ten years prior non-profit experience, along with a background of working in construction, property management, and corporate accounting. Carol volunteered for the Cub Scouts of America as a Den Mom and Pack Treasurer for seven years. Recently, she volunteered for her class reunion as their CFO. Carol is excited to work with our organization, because she believes in the life changing benefits W.A.G.S. provides for the families we serve.
Kids Who Can! Program Director
Working Animals Giving Service for Kids (W.A.G.S. 4 Kids) is delighted to announce the appointment of Tina Mettler, as Program Director of the “ Kids Who Can!” Youth Empowerment Program. “ Kids Who Can!” encourages and celebrates whatever individual gifts and talents a young person may have, in benefit to local children challenged in their everyday lives.
Mrs. Mettler is a graduate of Terra Technical College with a degree in Nuclear Power. For the last 28 years, she has worked for the Radiation Protection (Safety) Department at the Perry Nuclear Power Plant. A lifetime resident of Perry, Ohio, Tina lives on a small family farm with her husband and children. Mother of three, Tina came to W.A.G.S. out of the need of her own daughter Susie Mettler (Read Susie’s Story: Click Here). Susie became a quadriplegic due to a sledding accident in the winter of 2013. Her dream was to have a service dog of her own as a partner and helper. Before that dream became a reality, Susie passed away July 4, 2014. Through this enormous loss, Tina Mettler became inspired to help W.A.G.S. 4 Kids and all the kids who are waiting for a dog of their own, by taking on the leadership of the “ Kids Who Can!” program. Tina has worked with her kids in 4H Livestock, as a softball mom and now as a grandma. She will now help “ Kids Who Can” raise funds and awareness for kids in need through W.A.G.S. 4 Kids, in honor of Susie’s dream.
501 (c) (3) And Audited Financials
2014 Audited Financial Statement has been delayed...thank you for your patience...
Q: What do these dogs do to help a child?
A: W.A.G.S. 4 Kids trains both mobility service and autism service animals. Autism Service Dogs feature a dog with a child safe disposition, temperament and behavior. Commands are trained with both verbal cues and hand signals so that either may be used. Autism Service Dogs are valuable in addressing improved social interactions, visual and tactile stimulation, self-motivated behavior, as well as encouraging emotional bonding.
Autism service animals have additional training of task assignment which may include: retrieval of objects, opening doors and drawers, hitting light switches or preparing as a brace animal to walk slowly next to a child for physical support.
Q: Where do these dogs come from?
A: W.A.G.S. 4 Kids selects dogs for this intensive training program as puppies. We work with breeders, rescue groups and dog shelters to find available dogs. Puppies are carefully selected after passing tests of temperament, disposition and attention.
Q: Who trains these dogs?
A: All successful dog training starts with picking the right puppy and having a training plan. W.A.G.S. 4 Kids’ training manual “Dogs Don’t Speak English” is a complete step-by-step guide. This is the exact method used by W.A.G.S. staff of trainers, by the inmate apprentices of the Award-Winning ODRC Accredited Service Dog Training Program who who help raise these dogs in training, and the families that receive these dogs to partner with their children.
All of W.A.G.S.’ dogs begin their training by these exact methods in a structured Accredited Service Dog Training Program with a select group of inmates at The Grafton Correctional Institution in Grafton, Ohio. Much like shows you may have seen on “The Animal Plant”, W.A.G.S. has designed a training protocol to train inmates as animal trainers. The W.A.G.S. staff enters prison each week to train these men to train our dogs, to monitor each dog’s progress and to give specific instruction based on the need of each waiting child.
After completion of the prison training program, the animals learn about the world around them and experience car rides, trips to the grocery store and the sounds on a typical home environment. W.A.G.S. trainers meet with the families weekly to monitor and direct the training of each animal as they transition in to their forever homes.
Q: Who is eligible to receive a dog?
A: W.A.G.S. 4 Kids is the only organization of its kind, placing exclusively to children up to the age of 18. Many of our applicants are families with children in the five to twelve-year-old range. W.A.G.S. 4 Kids is driven by its belief in early intervention and will work to partner a dog as early in a child’s life as there is a need and an interest. All applicants must provide physician verification of disability as protected by the American with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Q: How do we apply?
A: Click Here To Request A Placement Application. A request for an application must be in writing. You must provide the name and age of the child and your mailing (No P.O. Boxes) address as well as the best way to reach you for the initial parent interview (this is usually a brief phone introduction). You can do this by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or via our online web form.
Q: How long will my child wait to receive a dog?
A: We generally are able to make a placement within two years. Autism Service Dogs may be available somewhat sooner.
Q: How does W.A.G.S. fund this program and what is the cost to a family?
A: Working Animals Giving Service for Kids, Inc. (W.A.G.S. 4 Kids) is a federal 501(c)(3) charity. As a federal charity, all donations to W.A.G.S. 4 Kids are tax deductible. W.A.G.S. holds fundraisers and participates in events throughout the year. We also ask families receiving an animal to make a commitment to do fundraising for W.A.G.S, in their own communities with the people they know and the companies they do business with. Take a moment to look at the faces of the children who are waiting for a special dog of their own. Read their stories and see if you might help.
Q: How can I help?
A: There are lots of opportunities to help W.A.G.S. 4 Kids. We appreciate the time and talents of people who want to plan or work at fundraising events. We need help with office work, accounting and writers for our newsletter. If you have a talent, please come and share it with us.
The total cost is approximately $25,000 - $28,000 per dog. We need the generosity of your tax deductible donations and your ability to spread the word about W.A.G.S. 4 Kids. Tell the people you know and the people you work for, that their financial gift to W.A.G.S. 4 Kids goes directly to children in this community that
need their help.
If you belong to a group or club looking for a cause to support...........
If you’ve got a great idea for a new fundraiser ...............
If your company will sponsor a dog for a child ...............
Don’t be shy – contact us at W.A.G.S. 4 Kids
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