Pet Therapy, Girls on the Run, Chia Seed Pudding Recipe

Plus: Girls on the Run, Chia Seed Pudding Recipe

Paws for Peop​le

I used to tell people I was allergic to therapy. But now I think that was my way of avoiding the subject. This week I learned about an incredibly important form of therapy, ironically one I really would be allergic to—pet therapy.

As I have written before, just because I am allergic to dogs and cats doesn’t mean I don’t know the joy that a pet brings to a home and family. What I recently discovered were physiological and psychological benefits received from pet visits. I spoke with Lynne Robinson, executive director of Paws for People, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to providing volunteer-based pet visits to people such as the elderly or children with physical disabilities as well as those living with conditions such as autism and dementia.

“Pet visits,” says Robinson, “build communication and community. These visits from our volunteers brighten moments and increase opportunities to be social.”

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Volunteers at Paws for People complete extensive screening and training for their pet therapy certification process. When they arrive with a pet, they establish an environment where the person can visit with the pet and experience the physiological benefits of the visit such as:

  • lowered blood pressure
  • improved cardiovascular health
  • release of endorphins (oxytocin) that produce a calming effect
  • diminished overall physical pain

For children and adults who feel isolation due to their conditions, visits from Paws for People can lighten the mood and provide company in a more tactile way. By just petting the animal, endorphins are released that provide overall relaxation.

The benefits don’t stop there. Paws for People has a program that travels to schools and libraries all over Delaware. The Paws for Reading program gives children the opportunity to gain confidence in their reading skills by reading aloud to a trained pet. The program is also planning to visit the University of Delaware to help calm the nerves of stressed students during mid-term exams.

It’s a shame that I would likely sneeze if I tried to pet a dog, cat or rabbit—especially because I would love to meet the trained pets at Paws for People and simply shake their paws.


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Girls on the Run

These days it seems like every Facebook friend I have is doing a 5K training program. So you can imagine my surprise to hear that some of my son’s third-grade classmates were training for a 5K as well. As a former runner, I knew the incredible confidence-boost associated with increasing distance or speed. I was excited to hear there was a program in Delaware that offers a way for girls to feel that empowerment so early on in their lives.

Girls on the Run of Delaware offers programs to schools throughout the state to not only train for a 5K, but also explore issues in self-esteem and friendships. The 12-week program, designed by Girls on the Run International, is for girls in 3rd through 8th grade. Groups meet for a curriculum-based discussion led by volunteer coaches and head out for a longer run each session. 

“In our discussions,” says Candyce Pizzala, GOTR coach at Sanford School, “we talk about how to stand up for ourselves, make wise choices and ways to support one another as well as our community. By the end of the three-month season, girls are more confident. They are talking more, sharing more with the other girls and this extends back to the classroom.”

Volunteer coaches help ensure the success of the program through evaluation. The seasonal programs are assessed by the girls through surveys that measure increases in their confidence levels and perceived strength. It’s the community-based effort and successful results that has encouraged both independent and public schools throughout Delaware to incorporate the program.

 “We have been blown away by the passion and dedication of our volunteer coaches,” says Kim Chitty, executive director of Girls on the Run of Delaware. “Whether they are teachers or parents in the community, they have such a strong desire to be a part of this program and be there for the girls.”

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Early positive messages to girls about their strength can increase the chance of building a positive sense of self. And as strength can be social and physical, it’s amazing to find a program in Delaware that combines ways to build both.


Chia Seed Pudding Recipe

I would like to introduce you to my new friend Gaby. Through my journeys in health and wellness research, I met this fabulous Wilmington native who is on her own journey to eat healthier. As a result she has already lost 12 pounds and has started her own blog.

“I started the blog to have a place to store my recipes,” says Wilson. “It’s been really helpful to blog about what I’m doing.  In fact, it’s become a cathartic thing for me. Now I write product reviews and health updates from time to time.”

I asked Gaby what it was about these recipes that are helping her lose weight and her answer was simple — the less processed food the healthier.

“Now I eat foods in moderation, but with the real ingredients.” says Wilson.

“For example I use a fat-free sour cream. It’s not fat-free because of a processed ingredient, it’s fat-free because they made it with skim milk. “

To celebrate Gaby’s recent success, I am sharing one of her recipes using Chia seeds. These seeds are high in fiber and Omega 3’s. By eating foods with chia seeds, you’ll be full for longer and less likely to overeat at the next meal.

Gaby’s Breakfast Chia Seed Pudding
(makes 4 servings)

2/3 cup chia seeds
2 cups of plain soymilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Sprinkle of cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together and let it sit overnight in the fridge—or a minimum of four hours.  The chia seeds will absorb the soymilk and the flavoring and congeal to make a tapioca-like pudding. Top with the fruit of your choice.


Healthy Events

Saturday, March 23
Inaugural Miles for Mentors 5K
Location  Middletown High School, 120 Silver Lake Road, Middletown
Time  Race begins at 9:30, registration opens at 8:30
More info.

Our Best of Delaware Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!

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