Pets helping kids

Melissa Steimer

There are two founders cited for Gabriel’s Angels – not unusual for a nonprofit. In this case though, one of the founders has a winning smile, four feet and a tail.

Pam Gaber and her Weimaraner Gabriel are listed as founding the organization in 2000, when the pair was visiting local classrooms to help children learn self-control and sensitivity.

Today, Melissa Steimer is CEO of the nonprofit, leading 125 registered Pet Therapy teams working with 75 partner agencies with programs like Animal, Books, and Children (ABC), and Animal Assisted Therapy in clinical settings with a therapist.

This isn’t just a feel-good program. Arizona ranks in the bottom 20 percent of the country in terms of child well-being (Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT). One of the most notable categories was 37 of every 100,000 children and teens in the state will die, most by suicide or gun violence. The national average is 30 per 100,000, all part of a disturbing upward trend. Gabriel’s Angels work with Title I schools, domestic violence and homeless shelters, and group homes to help children with core behaviors – attachment, confidence, self-regulation, affiliation, empathy, tolerance, and respect – to help give them the tools they need for a healthy emotional life.

Melissa is the idea leader for the organization. She has a 23-year career in nonprofits, dealing both with at-risk youth and animal welfare organizations, both which help to position her to enhance the social and emotional development of vulnerable children with the life-changing power of Pet Therapy.

To learn more about Gabriel’s Angels, click here:

Original air date: September 21, 2023.

Pets helping kids – Melissa Steimer image