Last summer Lee Burneson Middle School Intervention Specialist Erin Blahnik was thinking about a charity project for her special needs 7th and 8th grade students when she stumbled upon the idea of homemade dog biscuits.
“Our room is a self-contained specialized class, so most of the kids are nonverbal,” Blahnik said. “We were just trying to find ways to incorporate the students more around the school and the community, just ways to get them to participate. This was a great, great project for that.
“Leslie Stephens, the area director for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, lives in my neighborhood. We knew that guide dogs were often raised for kids with autism or for people who are blind, so we thought that would be a good way to link the cause in what we were doing and help other people with disabilities.”
With $500 seed-money from the school’s PTA and a private donation, the project started in earnest this fall with students – Natalie Menta, Kevin Spieth, Jacob Blood and Mikey George – making two flavors of dog biscuits: pumpkin-peanut butter and peanut butter-bacon. Each bag was $3.
“As a parent, I was thrilled that my son was fortunate enough to participate in Mrs. Blahnik’s class project,” said mother Amy Spieth. “I wasn’t sure how much he could participate, but the teachers made sure everyone had jobs by finding adaptive equipment. Kevin can push buttons so his job was to push a switch that dumped the ingredients into the bowl after classmates measured them.”