By Alesha Capone
Millie the golden Labrador is helping to brighten the lives of children in Melbourne’s west.
An education therapy dog, nine-year-old Millie is a regular visitor at MacKillop Specialist School in Maidstone where she is the star attraction of the Paw Pals program.
Run by MacKillop Family Services, the program helps to engage children across the west who are struggling.
Millie often accompanies children who feel anxious about entering classes or school, including those who have experienced bullying, family violence, neglect or emotional challenges.
MacKillop Specialist School principal Anne Henderson said Millie’s presence had led to “remarkable” changes in some students.
“One young man who previously refused to open his door to our education workers gets so excited about Millie’s visits that he plans in advance what books he will read to her, while another teenager who hadn’t been to school for months has developed an interest in photography and is designing a calendar featuring the pictures she has taken of Millie,” she said.
The only problem for MacKillop is that Millie is in such demand that they cannot keep up.
The organisation is hoping to raise $200,000 to train more dogs and support workers and will host a matched giving day called Paws 4 Kids on Wednesday, March 6.
The 24-hour campaign is asking for donations from the public, which will be matched four-fold by “matchers” including the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.
So a $25 donation, will be turned into a $100 donation by one of the matchers.
Visit www.paws4kids.org.au to make a donation.