COLORADO SPRINGS — Next week marks ten years since the Waldo canyon fire destroyed more than 300 homes in Colorado springs. News5 is shining a spotlight on a local nonprofit who jumped into action with their furry friends, when more than 30,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes.
Go Team Therapy, Crisis and Airport Dogs formed during the Waldo Canyon Fire. Now, the organization not only helps the local Colorado Springs community, but also communities across the country.
Nancy Trepagnier, the founder and executive director of the organization, said while the Waldo Canyon Fire was going on, she brought her two dogs to comfort people who were displaced and staying at hotels and evacuation centers.
“We got a call out that said, if there's therapy dogs out there, that would like to come out and just try to calm down the people, to go ahead and come down to that area. We were the only team that showed up,” said Trepagnier. “Everybody was scared. Nobody knew if their houses were still there. They didn't know if their animals were going to be okay, or what was going to happen.”
Trepagnier said her and her son showed up with their two golden retrievers, Tabor and Snickers, on June 26, 2012. That was three days after the fire began. Her dogs were able to provide comfort, and be a distraction for first responders and people who were displaced.
“It relaxed the situation a little bit. We had tons of kids around us, and then all of a sudden the adults came around us too,” said Trepagnier.
She worked with the community for three weeks after the Waldo Canyon Fire, and when someone asked her what the name of her team was, she said “I had to think of a name really quick, and we came up with the go team and that's how we started.”
After the fire, Trepagnier saw a larger need for therapy and crisis dogs. That’s when the team got bigger and bigger, with more volunteers like Lori Schlonski
“I love what we do. We bring happiness to others, and whatever we can do to help the community to make everybody better,” said Schlonski.
Fast forward to 2013, a year had gone by since the Waldo Canyon Fire. Schlonski says she remembers that members of the Go Team were also there then.
“The community really even needed the emotional support a year later with a dog that made a difference,” said Schlonski.
The Go Team now has more than 600 active teams across the United States and in Italy, providing comfort during crisis.
“If you know that you're holding on to a dog, it just makes you feel so much more calm,” said Trepagnier.
In 2013, the Go Team also jumped into action for neighbors and first responders impacted by the Black Forest Fire. The first class of Go Team therapy dogs had just started their training.
For more information about Go Team Therapy, Crisis and Airport Dogs, click here.
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