2015 Mission Leadership Award

Every year, the Providence Health & Services Board of Directors recognizes a program that demonstrates “extraordinary, community-focused services that exemplify the mission” with the annual Mission Leadership Award.

The board accepts nominations from across Providence, a five-state area of Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. For 2015, Providence Health & Services announced that the award will be shared by the animal assisted activities programs of Providence St. Peter Hospital and Providence Alaska Medical Center.

The Providence Animal-Assisted Activities & Therapy (PAAA/T) program’s mission is to share the unique benefits of the human-animal bond with the patients, visitors and staff at our facilities.

Kathy Whitlock has volunteered for this program for many years. A devoted dog lover, Kathy first became interested in the program when it first started in 1989. “I read about the program in a hospital bulletin. I had a great dog, but I was still working and thought I did not have the time to commit,” Kathy says.

After Kathy retired, she adopted a sweet German Shorthair companion, and she thought about the program again. “We signed up, but it was not as easy to pass the tests as I expected,” she says. “With extra training we made the grade. We visited a year on first floor, then a year in pediatrics, and then we found our niche in rehab. We visited there for six more years until Flash retired.”

Animals and their handlers are carefully screened and trained, and the therapy they provide takes advantage of people’s love for animals—and vice versa—to support goal-directed interventions as an integral part of treatment.

The program’s volunteer handlers and their companion animals make regularly scheduled visits at Providence St. Peter Hospital in the inpatient psychiatric unit, the inpatient medical rehab unit, the pediatric unit, and in the lobby and visitor waiting areas. The team also makes on-call visits to patients on other units by request, or when services are ordered by a physician.

In addition to volunteering, Kathy donates to the program.

“I was always looking for good ideas for charitable contributions,” she says. “It’s really fun to donate in honor of new or retiring members of the program—both human and canine—and especially in memory of people or pets in passing.”

Kathy now works with a new dog, and a cat who may qualify to work in the program.

“They keep me busy,” Kathy says, “and I’ll always be interested helping the Providence community.”


Volunteer handler-animal teams have visited more than 120,000 St. Peter Hospital patients, staff and visitors since 1989. The program has addressed a broad range of Providence’s objectives and has helped patients achieve physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social well-being in many ways.

Learn more about the program by contacting Danni Sabia, PAAA/T coordinator, at Danni.Sabia@providence.org or (360) 493-7629.