2011 graduate Sam Reiser is a two-time cancer survivor who enjoys volunteering, but wasn't able to do much of it while battling Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Finally cancer-free, he had the chance to complete his Eagle Scout project at .
The weekend before classes started Aug. 30, Reiser, with help from friends and family, constructed a 700-square-foot outdoor learning area complete with a fence, two benches, a picnic table and a donated dog igloo.
, the Canine Companions for Independence dog that helps non-verbal autistic students communicate, now has a comfortable area to interact with the students at Hope thanks to Reiser.
Education Specialist Elizabeth Olson says the new learning area is ideal for her seven K-2 students and a great place for them to meet and mingle with mainstream Hope students. “My students are functionally non-verbal,” she explains. “Yori, a retriever/lab mix, not only provides emotional support to them and a level playing field between them and their peers, but also motivates my kids to learn. He literally builds language out of them. One student who had declined to say ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’ to anyone said these words first to Yori and then began to share them with others.”
Hope Principal Richard Tubbs states, "I admire and respect the work Sam put into this project. His outstanding work will have a positive impact on hundreds of students who utilize this area with our therapy dog on a daily basis."
Reiser who calls himself "a stem cell transplant success story," says he feels a special connection to children. “The cancer has given me a young immune system and an old soul," believes Reiser who plans to continue his good works by performing missionary service at a Haiti orphanage in the near future.