The Marin Humane Society (MHS) honored Rachel Blackman of Fairfax as the 2012 Youth of the Year at its humanitarian awards luncheon on Saturday, August 24.
Teachers Maya Creedman and Anne Siskin of Willow Creek School in Sausalito were also honored as the 2012 Educators of the Year.
The Humane Society’s humanitarian awards recognize local individuals for their outstanding contributions to the welfare of animals and people in Marin and beyond.
2012 Marin Humane Society Youth of the Year
The 2012 Helena & Anthony Franklin Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution by a Youth was awarded to Rachel Blackman of Fairfax. A senior at Sir Francis Drake High School, Blackman has been a volunteer with the Marin Humane Society for nine years.
Inspired by her cousin Joseph who has autism, Rachel created a program for MHS called Jumping for Joy, a six-week class held at the Humane Society for children with autism and learning disabilities.
Jumping for Joy provides these children with the opportunity to work with animal-assisted therapy teams on a canine agility course. The agility challenges give each child a chance to increase their confidence and social skills while problem-solving in a fun way. The dogs also provide reassurance, nonjudgmental acceptance, and unconditional love.
“My cousin inspires me to make this world a better place,” says Blackman. “If I can accomplish something here in my community to help children with autism, it will help bring awareness to the issue and that will benefit all families.”
2012 Marin Humane Society Educators of the Year
Maya Creedman and Anne Siskin, third grade teachers at Willow Creek School in Sausalito, are the 2012 Madelon Tormanen Humane Educators of the Year. Creedman, a former MHS summer camp student, and Siskin used the Marin Humane Society’s SHARE a Book program in their classrooms to help motivate reluctant readers who might benefit from an innovative opportunity to read to dogs.
Dogs in the Society’s SHARE a Book program make ideal reading companions because they offer unconditional love and acceptance, dissolving a child’s fears and limitations in the process. The yearlong experience was transformational for the students at Willow Creek School. Not only did the students’ self-confidence as readers skyrocket, but they all improved their reading skills.
“This was a very special year for many of our students who really needed to grow their confidence, skills and love of reading,” says Creedman. Adds Siskin, “The SHARE a Book program has made a world of difference for our students!”