We are excited to have started our third year of implementing the EPIC Pals program! Last year we offered the traditional training version of the program to groups at the Girardot Center as well as a group of Big Brothers Big Sisters participants at Cape Trails Apartments. Eleven young people graduated from the training program and each participant and ‘their’ dog were also matched with dedicated adult volunteers. The dogs who completed the program were either dogs who had been adopted from a shelter or rescue or dogs who were being fostered while they completed the Pals program. We are happy to report, all the dogs who were being fostered have now found their forever homes! In addition to the traditional training groups, last year we offered humane education based, social emotional learning versions of the EPIC Pals program to fifteen students at the Girardot Center and a group at Prodigy Leadership Academy (PLA) that averaged about seven students a week.
This year we have several EPIC Pals groups up and going already. We are partnering with the Cape County Juvenile Office to offer the traditional training version of Pals at their new facility to four of the young people they serve. Classes began in January and will continue through graduation in March. PLA has invited us back to facilitate an EPIC Pals humane education group one Friday a month with students from their school. We continue to offer an EPIC Pals humane education group to students at the Girardot Center and in January, EPIC began two eight week EPIC Pals groups at local middle schools. One of these groups is being offered at Cape Central Middle School and the other is being offered at Jackson Middle School both groups have approximately eight participants.
EPIC Pals started three years ago when EPIC received a Special Projects grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health. The grant was awarded for four years and the intent was for EPIC to launch this new project with the funding. Since that time, with the assistance of the Community caring Council, EPIC has received additional financial support from the Missouri Division of Youth Services. EPIC was also awarded a grant this year from the Doris day Animal Foundation to pay for vet needs for foster dogs who complete the Pals program. EPIC staff are currently exploring opportunities for funding to sustain the program into the future.