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‘Exceptional Sidekick’ Earns Donation That Will Support Students, Dogs



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The Exceptional Sidekick Service & Therapy Dogs owner Abby Hill recently announced that the nonprofit organization received a substantial donation from OLLY that will expand its efforts.

Along with the donation, The Exceptional Sidekick Service & Therapy Dogs has partnered with OLLY, a company based in San Francisco that focuses on nutrition and good health as a foundation for happiness. More information about OLLY and its products is available on its website, olly.com.

When sharing the news with The Newtown Bee recently, Hill shared that her organization was introduced to OLLY through The Dogist Founder Elias Weiss Friedman. The Dogist, according to a release from The Exceptional Sidekick Service & Therapy Dogs, is a dog-focused social media influencer and content provider. It recently featured The Exceptional Sidekick Service & Therapy Dogs.

The Exceptional Sidekick provides psychiatric service dogs to disabled teens and young adults, ages 12-22, diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other brain health concerns that interrupt their education and the ability to lead a typical and/or fully functional lifestyle, according to the release.

Hill explained that The Dogist is working with OLLY to support nonprofits that support teen mental health with animals.

Not only is OLLY making a $25,000 donation to The Exceptional Sidekick Service & Therapy Dogs, it is also offering a portion of its sales on its website to the nonprofit during checkout.

Hill said the financial support will in part go toward funding a dream of a therapeutic school for students. Many of the nonprofit’s clients struggle in a typical school setting.

Once they are partnered with a dog, Hill said some schools do not support the dog. So, she wants to create a school setting with a professional special education teacher to provide an alternative to the school day for students.

Hill said she envisions the school being in Newtown.

“We’re starting corporate fundraising now before we ask the public for support,” said Hill.

Companies interested in supporting the creation of the facility can contact Hill at info@exceptionalsidekick.org.

Other ways Hill said the OLLY funds will be used include supporting ongoing expansion efforts, such as an in-house service dog breeding program.

The OLLY partnership also includes a partnership with the JED Foundation, according to the release, and that partnership “will allow [The Exceptional Sidekick Service & Therapy Dogs] to further strengthen its commitment to young adults in crisis in Connecticut.”

The JED Foundation is an organization dedicated to emotional health and suicide prevention in teens and young adults, according to the release.

Hill said her organization, like other nonprofits, relies on grants and donations.

According to the release, after it was founded in Newtown after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the organization has continuously witnessed the disabling long-term effects of PTSD and other brain health damage and concerns that so many teens and young adults across America suffer from.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has seen a dramatic upward trend in the number of students suffering with school avoidance and refusal, and varying degrees of anxiety and panic often make even leaving their home impossible.

“We are grateful for The Dogist’s support that will bring more awareness of our mission, and thrilled to announce our partnership with OLLY,” said Hill. “This generous donation will allow us to grow our organization in a number of ways. Our goal is to establish a service dog breeding program and to further support our handlers by offering an academic option for those otherwise unable to attend a traditional school in the future.”

For more information about The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs and ways to support the organization, visit exceptionalsidekick.org.

Education Reporter Eliza Hallabeck can be reached at eliza@thebee.com.

Etta, with The Exceptional Sidekick Service & Therapy Dogs, poses in front of a festive tree. —photo courtesy Abby Hill
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