Calvary Chapel Academy, Yorba Linda, California

Start Date: 2021-05-27

Description: On Friday, May 24, a 6 year old boy was killed in a road rage incident on the freeway in Orange County. He was riding in his booster seat in his mother's car when another driver shot at the vehicle. The bullet went through the trunk and hit the child. Although his mother called 911 and immediately pulled to the side of the freeway, the child passed away enroute to the hospital. On Monday, May 24, HOPE AACR received a request to go to the school where the child was to begin kindergarten to provide support for the students who ranged in age from 3 years to 14 years. The teachers brought about 15 students at a time to a large room where the dogs and handlers were located. The students quickly scattered to pet the dogs and to collect their trading cards. Most of the youngsters quickly became involved and were reluctant to leave when the next group of students arrived for their visit. As one teacher said, "the kids are getting bigger" -- referring to the fact that the youngest children came in first and the teenagers (7th and 8th graders) were the last ones to visit. As Laura said, "I was so glad that the Crisis Response Network called us out. It was really good for the students, parents, and staff." Beth shared this observation: "I thought it was necessary to be 'very present' obviously for the little ones as they were often unsupervised. There were 9 or 10 children surrounding Harley at one point. I had to be prepared to field their questions and make sure that they weren't touching any areas of the dog that would be offensive (such as eyes, tail pulling or poking) while making them feel that they were heard and responded to. This was hard since they were so little and very curious, asking lots of questions. The middle school-aged children were fun and some were very thought provoking in mentioning how the pup calmed them. One student asked if the dogs helped others with anxiety. One teen-age girl had Harley with his head on her lap and she was really feeling the love and calming nature of their interaction. It was cute to see how hard it was for her to leave him." Steve shared a comment from a little boy who said, "This is the best 20 minutes of my life." Another student was overheard saying, "It is sad that the dogs only come out when someone dies." Leslie shared a significant comment from one of the teachers. She sat on the floor with Abby and, with tears in her eyes, said that "our dogs were helping the teachers as well as the children. She thanked us for being there." Over all, there were only a few times when children actually mentioned the boy's death; rather, they seemed totally engrossed with the 5 precious dogs and their wonderful handlers.

Agency: Orange County Crisis Response Network
Teams: Steve Booth and Henry; Laura Finlon and Gunner; Beth Houser and Harley; Katie Priest and Wall-E; Leslie White and Abby