By Teri Carnicelli
Steven Micheletti, CEO of Z’Tejas, is an unabashed dog lover. He also volunteers at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. So when it was time to select a charity to benefit from the opening of Z’Tejas’ newest eatery, the choice was a no-brainer: the PCH Paws Can Heal program, which uses animal assisted therapy to help children in the hospital.
Z’Tejas opened its doors on April 22 at 16th Street and Bethany Home Road. During the three-day soft opening, the restaurant raised $10,000 for the PCH Paws Can Heal program, through a combination of diner contributions and matching funds from the restaurant ownership.
“To see the faces of even the sickest child, when one of the pet therapy teams come in … they just light up,” Micheletti says. “To be able to help the process was very personal to me.”
A check presentation was held on May 6 at the eatery, featuring Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and a pet therapy team from PCH.
Steve Schnall, senior vice president of the PCH Foundation, says the intensive training to become a pet therapy team at a children’s hospital takes close to a year to complete and can be very expensive. The hospital currently works with more than 50 certified teams, and the beneficial effects on the young patients are unquestionable.
“It’s not just the emotional benefits of hugging or petting a dog,” Schnall points out. “I saw a young girl the other day throwing a ball for one of our therapy dogs, playing fetch. What she didn’t realize is the repetitive motion of throwing the ball was actually physical therapy for her arm. But she was having so much fun, it didn’t seem like therapy to her.”
For more information, call 602-933-2136 or e-mail the program coordinator, Mary Lou Jennings, at firstname.lastname@example.org.