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Murray Journal

Non-profit awarded grant for animal-assisted therapy efforts

Dec 01, 2016 03:47PM ● By Travis Barton

Dogs are utilized at the Animal-Assisted Healing Center to help their clients. (Janelle Nimer/Animal-Assisted Healing Center)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

Janelle Nimer and Janet Wilson of the Animal-Assisted Healing Center (AAHC) were selected by Zions Bank to receive a 2016 Smart Women Grant of $3,000. 

Nimer said they were surprised and ecstatic to receive the grant. 

“It was the first grant we’ve ever received, so it’s been really exciting,” Nimer said.  

AAHC is a non-profit organization based out of Murray which aims to provide animal-assisted therapy to all age groups for physical and mental balance. Programs such as canine-assisted psychotherapy and therapeutic riding using horses are utilized where clients can groom and care for the animals.  

“We love providing people another option to mental health care through animal-assisted therapy, and we are looking forward to helping more individuals and families access this type of therapy as it’s proving to very successful for patients,” Nimer wrote in a press release. 

Chantel Chase is the co-chair of the women’s financial advisory board at Zions Bank that chose AAHC as one of its grant recipients. Chase said they look for people who influence the community in a positive way. 

“What she was doing with her grant could really have a significant impact on the well-being for women and children so I think that was what was most impressive,” Chase said.  

AAHC intends to use the grant money to improve its capacity to assist more individuals and families. The $3,000 will go towards animal care, facility rentals, and therapeutic equipment. Nimer said she hopes to one day have a facility where they can keep everything in one place. Currently, horses are kept at the South Jordan Equestrian Center. 

This journey for Nimer goes back 12 years to her time at the University of Utah.

While working towards her masters degree, Nimer trained and volunteered with her first therapy dog and “just loved it so much.” She started her post-graduate education with the desire to work in animal-assisted therapy. Now, Nimer has three dogs assisting in her therapy vocation.  

It’s a work designed to enhance the connection between animals and humans. Nimer said research shows animals will mirror whatever feelings clients are feeling. If people feel happy and calm, the animals also feel that way.  

“[The animals] are helping us see that center, that mindfulness, that love,” Nimer said. 

Nimer said she’s seen decreased levels of depression and anxiety with work done by AAHC. 

“I’ve also seen improvement in individuals who have a history of trauma, they come to that realization of the pattern they repeat,” Nimer said. She specializes in trauma and children helping to debrief the trauma and the animals play a major role. 

As part of the psychotherapy, dogs go through obstacle courses to help clients gain perspective. 

“Animals help us see something we might be blind to so when [dogs] have a difficult time getting over an obstacle, it lets our clients see what that obstacle is like for them in their lives,” Nimer said. “If they’re having difficulty with communication or emotional expression or anything like that. They can actually see it in front of them.” 

Zions Bank received 56 applications this year awarding six of them to people throughout Utah and Idaho. Zions Bank stated in a press release that the grants are “awarded to those who promote the empowerment of women or directly benefit women of low-income and underserved populations.” It is part of an “ongoing process to support women in achieving financial independence.” 

Chase said she hopes these grants serve as stepping stones going forward for the recipients. 

“Not only will it help them make a difference and give them a boost financially to be able to do what they see needs to be done in their community,” Chase said. “But also that they’ll inspire other women to do more as well.” 

The grant demonstrates the importance of what AAHC is doing, Nimer said, especially regarding its benefit towards mental health care. She points out they are striving to provide free or discounted mental health services. 

“We have patients who can’t afford therapy so we want to make sure that’s available for them,” Nimer said. She added that means in whatever way is best for them. 

Not everyone likes dogs, Nimer said, so AAHC will partner with other organizations to bring in different animals such as cats or small horses.