Gabriel’s Angels seeks volunteers to comfort kids

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Gabriel’s Angels provides pet therapy visits to vulnerable Arizona children, helping them develop seven vital core behaviors.

Melissa Steimer, CEO of Gabriel’s Angels, and Diane Bykowski with the Pet Therapy Team joined Arizona Horizon to talk about the impact Gabriel’s Angels has on the local community. Bykowski also brought her dog, Mia, a 6-year-old Mi-Ki therapy dog. Mia’s favorite foods are string cheese, fruitables and watermelon. Mia also knows many skills, and her favorite ones include saluting, praying and hula hoop jumping.

Gabriel’s Angels was founded in 2000 by Pam Gaber and Weimaraner, Gabriel. Their mission is to inspire confidence, compassion, and best behaviors in at-risk children through pet therapy.”

“23 years ago, the founder at the time had gone down to Child Crisis Arizona with her dog to socialize as a puppy. What she found by doing that was that kids that were facing trauma were really healing through this dog,” Steimer said. “She was like ‘An idea is born and I need others who can come along with me and spread that out.’ It’s all volunteer-driven.”

The nonprofit relies entirely on support from the community and never charges the schools or other facilities they serve. The Pet Therapy Teams visit crisis nurseries, domestic violence and homeless shelters. They also visit Title One schools “all in an effort to intervene in children’s lives and enhance their emotional behavioral development by teaching core behaviors – attachment, confidence, self-regulation, affiliation, empathy, tolerance, and respect.”

“Mia was a horrible puppy,” Bykowski said. “We thought she was gonna fail obedience school. She was the social butterfly in class. She went to all the dogs, but she wouldn’t listen to me! At the age of one, it was like a light bulb went off in her head. She was tested, and the dogs with Gabriel’s Angels have to be certified by a national organization. We’re with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, it’s a three-day test. Then you choose where you would like to do your therapy work. One of the places we chose was Gabriel’s Angels because she loves kids and she loves reading.”

Bykowski and her dog Mia started as a team working with the Animals, Books and Children (ABC) Reading program. Now, they primarily support kids through one-time events by bringing communities the unconditional love of a dog, called Community Support Visits (CSV).

To volunteer with Gabriel’s Angels, click here.

Melissa Steimer, CEO of Gabriel's Angels
Diane Bykowski, Pet Therapy Team, and her dog, Mia

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