Club Spotlight:Animal Assisted Happiness

Teresa Feng

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Seniors Samantha Merecek and Kylie Gorman founded the Animal Assisted Happiness Club (AAH) in 2017 as a way to make a difference by helping other students find comfort and joy from the company of animals. Active since 2018, the club has been working alongside Animal Assisted Happiness, a non-profit organization. Every month, the club brings a variety of farm animals to students in life skills classes at Wilcox.

Entering the AAH Club room, the visitor is greeted by a variety of animals including rabbits, chickens, and even a beautiful bird named Precious Diane. Gorman says the animals brought to the school include “goats, mini-horses, alpacas, guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, and birds.” Each table has several animals who sit on small cushions, and students can hold and interact with the pets. Students are able to enjoy a comfortable atmosphere and take a break from the stress of school while interacting with animals. Gorman, Merecek, and other experienced members of the club walk around and help students feel at ease with the animals, and have fun as they pet or hold them. While many visitors rush into the classroom with an eager mentality, others are more hesitant to interact with the animals, especially the bird, Precious Diane, and a small chicken who constantly tries to escape his bed. However, with the help of the founders, advisors, and officers of the club, visitors are encouraged to feel relaxed while petting the animals. Merecek’s favorite part of being a part of the club is, “when one of our visitors sees one of the animals, and you can just see their faces light up, because their so happy to be with the animals.”

Outside of Wilcox, students in life skills classes can choose to volunteer at the Smile Farm at Baylands Park. By completing an application, students can further interact with barnyard animals. Animal Assisted Happiness specializes in giving students with different abilities an enjoyable environment where they can interact with various animals.
For Merecek and Gorman, Animal Assisted Happiness is all about bringing joy to visitors that come to see and interact with the animals every month. Merecek says, “It really matters to me that we are making a difference, even if it’s as small as bringing an animal to school, and helping [students] work with the animals.” Animals can have a great impact on people’s lives. In AAH, the animals serve as adorable and calming influences that help students expand their horizons in interacting with new animals that are brought in each month. The animals that are brought to Animal Assisted Happiness’ monthly meetings vary, which gives students a good opportunity to have a different experience each month.
The warm, inviting atmosphere makes visitors feel comfortable interacting with one another as well as with the officers. This in turn helps students to be comfortable enough to pet and hold the animals. AAH also works alongside other groups, including Best Buddies and the local Animal Assisted Happiness organization. The barnyard animals provide fun and inviting elements to the club, and all the visitors thoroughly enjoy their time there.