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UNF’s ADAPT program celebrates National Therapy Animal Day

volunteers with mini horsesThe Assisted Dog and Pony Therapy (ADAPT) program, a partnership between the University of North Florida’s Brooks College of Health and Nemours Children’s Health System, is celebrating National Therapy Animal Day with students at Duval Charter School at Mandarin. The students in grades K-8 learned about the ADAPT program’s therapeutic benefits for pediatric patients, held a competition to raise funds for ADAPT and the winning class received a visit with Buc and Taco, two of the program’s equine therapists, on National Animal Therapy Day. 

ADAPT is a first-of-its kind model to incorporate canines (dogs) and equines (ponies) into clinical, therapeutic treatment planning for Nemours patients. Through a partnership with UNF, Nemours is implementing the program to benefit their pediatric patients and to conduct large-scale studies that will contribute to research for the benefit of people, and animals, everywhere.

The program’s equine therapist ponies will live in a new barn that is being constructed at the Nemours campus and will visit the patients daily to form close bonds. The funds raised by the students will help to maintain the barn, pay for transportation, food, vaccinations, certification, and more.

children at the adapt event“What a great learning opportunity this has been for our students,” said Jerry Hushult, principal of Duval Charter School at Mandarin. “They’ve been working so hard to raise money for patients who might be the same age as they are. By seeing these amazing animals in the flesh, our students have been able to experience first-hand the joy and peace some of their peers may feel who are in difficult situations. It also introduces them to some career opportunities that they may have never know existed – animal-assisted therapy.”