Meet Ceili, one of the therapy dogs that visit RMHC Toronto as part of the PAWS program. Ceili has been volunteering with RMHC Toronto since 2016 and is joined by her owner, Elizabeth, who is a long-standing volunteer with the organization.

The Pets At Work (PAWS) program began in 2004 and has become one of the most cherished programs at RMHC Toronto after families expressed interest in establishing a similar program to one offered at SickKids Hospital.

In 2007, George Cohon, Founder of McDonald’s Canada and Ronald McDonald House Charities Toronto and RMHC Russia, and his wife, Susan, joined the PAWS program with their two therapy dogs, Annie and Chloe, much to the delight of children with serious illness and their families staying at the House.

The PAWS program was put on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions, but now, almost three years later, the program is back!

According to clinical research, the presence of a therapy pet can help reduce feelings of sadness or stress, making them a valuable resource to those staying at RMHC Toronto while they or their family member are going through life-saving treatment.

“We are so happy to offer the PAWS program once again,” says Candice Gurwitz, COO at RMHC Toronto, “Ceili makes a huge difference to families staying at the House.”

The PAWS program runs weekly, and families staying at RMHC Toronto can sign up for a designated time slot to spend time with Ceili. Students at RMHC Toronto’s school also take part in the weekly PAWS visits, giving them the opportunity to interact with the gentle therapy dog.

“The PAWS program is a highlight of the week for our students,” says Katie Doering, Principal of RMHC Toronto School. “They love getting to spend time with Ceili and have so much fun petting her.”

Thank you to RBC Foundation for their support of the RBC & RMHC Canada Family Wellness Program, which has resulted in innovative health and well-being activities and programs for RMHC families, staff and volunteers. 

To learn more about other programs RMHC Toronto offers, please click here.