By Donovan Levine
Vickie Held, a retired KU employee, is training a therapy dog named Sassy: a small, young cockapoo with carpet-like fur and limitless energy. Held’s been working with Sassy for 25 weeks now.
Held is a mother, grandmother and former professor, and she’s always had a passion for inspiring the younger generation.
Held’s goals are to raise money for autism awareness and help children with low-functioning autism. She’s in the process of scheduling a date for children with autism to meet Sassy in front of the Sharadin Arts building with hopes to create a memorable experience for them. Above all, she wishes for them to be able to draw Sassy and create artsy, inspirational books that may put a smile on their faces.
“I just want to give back to the children and hope to create books about Sassy, so they can remember her. Something that’s inspirational for them,” Held said. The books, she described, could include stories involving Sassy picking trash off the ground, for instance, so she won’t eat any of it.
Held does not work with any specific autism awareness nonprofits, but instead, formed her own team called “Soldiers602” that’s affiliated with both Kutztown and the Lehigh Valley. Their team has worked on previous projects to raise money and awareness, including one project where they had 30 people creating drawings of Sassy, 12 of which were selected and used to craft a calendar that they sold. The calendar had vibrant colors on each page that Held said helps positively impact the children’s implicit behaviors and adapt better, because color has an effect on behavior.
Held’s been avidly trying to spread the word about her work with Sassy; she broadcasted live with KUR and is working with the coordinators at Sharadin to set up at least one meet-up date before KU’s winter break.