Chicago Charity Turns Neglected Pit Bulls into Mentors
Breaking the cycle of abuse is one of the greatest challenges for social workers and psychologists. But a new program set forth by Blackhawks player Bryan Bickell and wife Amanda is taking an unconventional approach — employing pit bulls.
The Bickells’ program Paws for Strength pairs kids at Chicago’s Hephzibah House — a home for abused or neglected children and their families — with rescued pit bulls to create a positive and healing environment through the human-animal bond.
Over the course of eight weeks, the children teach the dogs tricks, and play and bond with them. In addition to the time the time spent with the dogs, Amanda Bickell and other volunteers read stories to the children.
After reading a story about one of Michael Vick’s abused pit bulls that was saved and now has a happy life with a new family, Amanda says one 8-year-old responded, “That’s hopefully my story.”
Whether it’s giving these children hope for their futures or calming them in their present, the program shows promise for teaching kids that their past doesn’t have to determine their future.
Paws for Strength is an offshoot of the Bryan & Amanda Bickell Foundation, which aims to change the negative stigma associated with pit bulls, who — because of their reputation — are often subject to abuse or neglect.
“We keep saying it’s not the dog, it’s the owner in the majority of circumstances,” Amanda told DNAinfo, Chicago. “It’s just like these children. They struggle with a lot of issues… because of the situations they were brought into.”
For those interested in joining Paws for Strength with their pit bulls, visit the Bickells’ website to learn about the interview process.