The Jefferson Awards for Public Service looks for local unsung heroes who make the world a better place through volunteering and community service. Known as the “Nobel Prize for Public Service,” the awards recognize ordinary people who do extraordinary things. RTV6 presents the Jefferson Awards to local volunteers and paid professionals, who go well beyond their expected duties and positively impact our communities.
When asked to describe the children's Ther-A-Play Foundation, Craig Dobbs has just one word: magical.
The foundation, founded 17 years ago by Dobbs, serves children with special needs through physical and occupational therapy on horseback. The program started with just six kids, but now serves anywhere between 120 to 150 children per week.
"We work with kids with autism, physical disabilities, first steps program, anything that would challenge motor skills, and or attention, things like that for kids," Dobbs said.
What began as a simple idea centered around a love of animals and children has grown into story after story of children getting to experience the basic joys of life.
Through the Ther-A-Play foundation, children learn life skills such as brushing their teeth, tying their shoes, and getting dressed. The animals not only help with the children's therapy, but also serve as a motivational tool. Dobbs says the horses help create a special bond with the children and make therapy feel more like playtime.
"They think they're coming to see another therapist or doctor and when they get here they kind of open up to where it's kinda more playing opposed to actually doing physical therapy," Dobbs said.
It is because of his years of dedication to children's skills, laughter, and confidence that Dobbs received the Jefferson Award.
But Dobbs says that while the children's success is great, he also does this for someone else.
"One of the reasons why I do it is the parents," Dobbs said.
Throughout the years, Dobbs has collected many letters and scrapbooks, all filled with parents' gratitude for their children being able to walk or talk for the first time. Dobbs keeps these memories close to his heart.
The Children's Ther-A-Play Foundation has an expansion project in the works to double the size of the therapy area. They also have several fundraisers throughout the year. Click here to learn how to participate.
If you'd like to nominate someone for the Jefferson Award, complete the form here.