The Women’s Eastern Regional Diagnostics Correctional Center (WERDCC) in Vandalia hosted several special guests and dignitaries to properly celebrate 10 years of the C.H.A.M.P. Assistance Dogs, Inc. program.
During the first decade of C.H.A.M.P., nearly 60 dogs have been rescued and trained by offenders before they moved on to offer assistance to individuals meeting a variety of needs.
“This is a great, great program,” said C.H.A.M.P Service Dog Program Director Janet Cole, who emceed the event. Missouri’s Department of Corrections Director George Lombardi gave special remarks during the celebration.
“It was the staff who stood through and knew what this actually can be,” said Lombardi of the program when it started 10 years ago. “I want to thank everybody on campus who has accepted this program…This program is the epitome of what this time should be about. You’ve given back and I hope you take this compassion and hard work you’ve done with you for the rest of your lives…”
Former WERDCC Warden Cyndi Prudden said she has been touched by the effect the program has had on offenders.
“When you get letters that say ‘I haven’t pet a dog in 10 years,’ you get tears in your eyes,” Prudden said. “To see the dogs play, it lifts your spirits. I’ve seen the difference it’s made…Good luck and here’s to another 10 years.”
Cole recognized current and former trainers and volunteers for their efforts in the program.
The C.H.A.M.P./DOC volunteers throughout the years recognized were Mary Ruth, Darla Golden, Nola Ewers, Theresa Datillo, Carolyn Schwaab, Dianne Peters, Laurie Schmidt, Nancy Johnson, and Cole. WERDCC-C.H.A.M.P current trainers recognized were Roxann Earles, Veronica Villanueva, Helen Davis, Tracy Wild, Crystal Brinkley, Christina Davis, Janiece Moore, and Shelley Fossell.
“Everything good I have is because of this program,” said former WERDCC offender Stacey Lambert. “Anybody that knows me knows this is the last place in the world I want to be. I have had the opportunity to see how my role in here changed to out there. I don’t think I’d be who I am today without this program.”
Special guests for the event were Carol Mestemacher with “FD Magnum,” Jennifer Kuehnle with “PASD Clark,” Terry Raglin with “PASD J.C.,” Zach Prosser with “PASD Bimmer,” and the Price Family and “HSD Cupid.”
During an open forum, the Price family talked about their dog “Cupid.” Stories of the dog “Magnum” were shared by Mestemacher.
Graduating canines include rescued: Tessa, Daisy, Barney T., Turbo, Lolita, Romeo, and Sassy. Service to Therapy: Lulu, Jesse, and Dixie
Placed into Service: Emma, Magnum, and Peeps
The event concluded with a special presentation as Jennifer Kuehnle was presented with a dog named “Woody” to provide her assistance. Her dog “Clark” was officially retired was present at the event.
It was noted the “Puppies for Parole” program that started in January 2011 is already having similar success that C.H.A.M.P. has experienced over the past decade.
Refreshments were also served.