Brighter Tomorrows program coordinator Jan Bruder knows how a therapy dog can help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
A donation by the Tomah Health Community Foundation will help those survivors in Monroe County. Members donated $1,500 Thursday to support a therapy dog recently purchased by Brighter Tomorrows.
“Being all grant funded and donation funded, we really needed the support of our community to help fund this project and Tomah Health Foundation really stepped up to the plate and was able to make a contribution that will help us to purchase the dog and help pay for some of his training,” Bruder said
She said a recent donation from New Lisbon Correctional Institution was also instrumental in purchasing the Golden Retriever named, Sol, after the sun and an appropriate name for a dog who will bring brightness to clients who have been living in dark situations. “On average we help about 400 survivors of abuse a year in Monroe County including adults and children. With the pandemic, we saw a dramatic increase in the number of people we were serving, services that we have been providing and the emergency assistance that those folks needed,” Bruder said.
In the last couple of months, Bruder said they have served more homeless residents and helped more people file for protective orders than a normal year. “That’s where the therapy dog program came in, we thought ‘what else can we do to provide comfort to those survivors that we are serving,’” Bruder said. “We wanted to try something new and innovative that might benefit people or reach clients that we never saw before.”
She said Sol should be able to start providing services in about a year following various training. “He’ll learn how to sit on victim’s feet when they testify in court, he’ll learn how to provide comfort and support when they report to law enforcement and he’ll also learn how to provide support to children. There’s a lot of data and research that proves that victims really do benefit from therapy dogs.”
Foundation vice president Brian Eirschele said the organization’s donation meets its mission to support health and wellness programs in Monroe County.
“It follows along the pattern of the foundation to begin with – the wellness of our community,” Eirschele said. “The benefit that we hope this dog brings to someone or many people perhaps is a great investment and I cannot think of a better use of charitable giving.”
Eirschele also challenged area residents and organizations to help fund the therapy program.
With an office in Tomah and Sparta, Brighter Tomorrows has been offering services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault since 1996. “We provide a wide array of services. We do a lot of supportive listening, legal and medical advocacy, information and referrals, and safety planning.”
She said one of the most important services is crisis intervention. “We have a 24-hour crisis line (1-888-886-2327 or 608-269-7853) and anyone can call during the day, at night, weekends or holidays, and there will always be an advocate available to talk to,” Bruder explained. “If someone has an incident late at night and they don’t have a safe place to stay or if they need help getting somewhere, we’re available to provide that help 24 hours, seven days a week.”
Bruder said Brighter Tomorrows will hold a fundraising event, Paws against Domestic Violence, at Sparta’s Memorial Park Sept. 18 to further raise money for the program and other agency needs. “I’ve been with the agency 13 years, and it is really neat to see how the support from our community has grown.”