Because of Casey: Magee’s Facility Dog Program

Every year on July 17, friends and family of Casey Feldman gather. Not only to remember Casey, who passed away after being struck by a distracted driver at the age of 21, but also to honor her through service. Tomorrow, the 4th anniversary of Casey’s passing, her friends and family will come to Magee to volunteer and learn more about one of Casey’s lasting legacies: Magee’s Facility Dog Program.

Casey with her dog

Casey with her dog

Throughout her life, Casey had been an advocate for different causes, devoted to helping others. One of the things dearest to her heart was animals – especially dogs. She even volunteered at a no-kill shelter.  After her passing, her father and mother founded the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation to provide financial support to individuals, groups and institutions whose interests and goals align with those of Casey.

“At the Foundation, we have spent so much time focusing on preventing distracted driving, which is important—but I could always hear Casey saying, ‘Dad, what about the animals?'” said Joel Feldman, Casey’s father and one of the founders of the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation.

It was this that led Joel and his wife Dianne to learn more about facility dogs. Facility dogs work with clinical staff at hospitals to engage patients in sessions designed to improve functional outcomes, stimulate healing and recovery, and provide comfort and unconditional love. While many health care facilities may have animals visit with patients, these animals are generally handled by volunteers and are not used to help patients meet specific, planned treatment goals.  Patients’ sessions are goal-directed, and functional outcomes are measured, recorded and documented. The average facility dog knows around 40 commands (40!), all of which can be utilized during therapy.

Family & friends of Casey meet facility dog Ford at last year's Day of Service.

Family & friends of Casey meet facility dog Ford at last year’s Day of Service.

Despite the many benefits of animal-assisted therapy, the training, management and continued support of a Facility Dog can be cost-prohibitive for many institutions. The Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation understood the potential of animal-assisted therapy for patients and their recovery, and approached Magee Rehabilitation with a pledge of support.

Through that support, Magee was able to launch it’s first ever Facility Dog Program in 2011. The response has been incredible. The Foundation continues to support this program, and tomorrow, they will be introduced to our newest facility dog Joey. They will have an opportunity to see Joey in action and what is possible at Magee because of Casey.

We are incredibly grateful for the continued support of the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation – as are each and every patient that has an opportunity to work with Joey.

To learn more about Magee’s Facility Dog Program, check out the video below.

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