Two-time Stanley Cup winner Bryan Bickell and his wife launched a foundation that pairs pit bulls as service dogs with people who have MS.
Pit bulls and children who have been abused have a lot in common, according to Bryan and Amanda Bickell. Bryan, a former Chicago Blackhawks and Carolina Hurricanes left winger, and Amanda, his wife, founded the Bryan and Amanda Bickell Foundation in 2012 to change the negative image of these loyal dogs and to help children who have been battered.
“Both children who have been abused and pit bull dogs have so much negativity surrounding them,” Bryan said. “They’re often misunderstood.”
The couple has been changing that image with their Paws for Strength program, which brings certified therapy pit bull dogs together with children at Hephzibah House in Oak Park, Ill., a nonprofit that assists children in transition. Paws for Strength teaches children who have been abused about setting boundaries and building self-esteem.
Bryan grew up with dogs, and 12 years ago he and Amanda rescued a pit bull puppy they named Bailey, from a drug dealer. “We took her away from a bad situation, and she has been part of our family ever since,” Amanda said.
“Our two daughters, ages 3 and 1, adore Bailey, and Bailey watches over them,” Bryan said.
“There are so many myths centered around pit bull breeds and mixes,” Amanda added. “Seeing the positive work with our Paws for Strength program, we decided to create a program pairing pit bull rescues that are fully certified and trained with people with multiple sclerosis.”
Bryan was diagnosed with relapsing multiple sclerosis last November. “We did a lot of research,” Amanda said. “It didn’t take us very long to realize we wanted to pair people with MS with service dogs to help them with their balance, vision, help pick up things, turn on and off lights, offer emotional support, and assist with other symptoms of MS.”
Their service dog program for people with multiple sclerosis is based in Chicago, but serves people with multiple sclerosis nationwide. The first trained pit bull rescue dog in their program is going to a person in Florida.
November 21, 2017
Janet O’Dell, RN