La Crosse, WI (WXOW) ----- It all started with Nancy Herbers love of reading and an observation she made as she wheeled her grandson and dog, Molly down the hall of a nursing home. "I was babysitting my grandson, Jonathan, and I had him and Molly in a stroller together. As I went down the hall, you could see the looks on their faces."
And now, for the past 10 years Nancy continues to visit the nursing home only this time with just Molly and busloads of children. Nancy says, "It's probably been many years since any of them had the chance to see a young child and obviously when you are in a nursing facility you do not have the opportunity to go out and experience the outside world."
Resident, Nancy Ross said "I think it makes you feel to happy to know that somebody's coming around and taking an interest in our life here."
Here is Holmen, Wisconsin. A place where a large number of children struggle with reading. "They don't like it because they're not good at it they don't want to do it but to get better you must do it so it's a real hard thing to get some of the kids to start doing so they get better."
That's where Molly comes in. She doesn't judge and is all ears. The perfect reading buddy. "Once you are able to read even things you don't know you can read about and figure it out, learn about it because you can read and learn for yourself. When I was a child we were taught up until 3rd grade you learn to read and after that you read to learn."
Knowing what reading means to her, Nancy started a literacy program in 2 schools in Holmen. Once a week she and Molly works with numerous classes of 2nd and 3rd graders. "Probably one of the cutest things that I got was a thank you note from a little boy."
That letter is now in Nancy's book, "Tales of a Pet Therapy Dog"which every child in her program gets. The kids then practice a story to fluency and then go to the nursing homes to read to the people who Nancy says sometimes go forgotten.
"The rewards are so great. They're not monetary. Even if you have all the money in the world it would not buy the rewards, the good feelings, the things I get to see. Money can't buy that."
But it almost didn't happen. After losing a previous pet Nancy's husband didn't want a dog but eventually she wore him down. "I doubt he'll tell me again that I can't have another dog."
Seniors getting the attention they deserve. Students learning to read. And a dedicated woman....following her heart.
Nancy's book can be purchased for $10.00 by calling Nancy at 608-526-4778 or by going to Rudy's in La Crosse, Thrivent Financial, Blue Cup, Rudy's Feed and Seed in Holmen. And the Board Store in La Crosse and Wisconsin Unlimited in Onalaska.
*All proceeds go to HAPY, Holmen Area Partnership for Youth that is working towards building a youth center.