Therapy dog visits Schilling School to comfort students, staff

News Release

Homer CCSD 33C

Goodings Grove   Luther J. Schilling   William E. Young   William J. Butler

Hadley Middle   Homer Jr. High


Contact: Charla Brautigam, Communications/Public Relations Manager | 708-226-7628

Deborah Brom and Toby meet with Principal Candis Gasa (left) and teacher Tasha Ohotzke before meeting students on Sept. 8.


For Immediate Release:

Sept. 9, 2016


Therapy dog visits Schilling School to comfort students, staff

Deborah Brom and Toby get ready to visit Schilling School.


The day after learning one of their classmates had passed away, Schilling School students and staff received a special visit from a licensed comfort dog to help ease their sorrow.


Toby, a gentle 2½-year-old Chocolate Labrador Retriever that underwent special training to receive his Therapy Dog International certificate, visited the school Thursday (Sept. 8) with his handler, Deborah Brom.

Toby meets a few Schilling School students.


“He’s very good at his job,” said Brom, who has taken Toby to visit children and adults at an area hospital, nursing home and public library since receiving his special certification 1½ years ago. He’s even provided comfort to families and emergency service personnel following natural disasters.


“I’ve seen him bring happiness to people and provide the emotional support they need to cope with a tragedy or illness,” she said.

Students give Toby a hug while trainer Deborah Brom looks on.


Brom is not only Toby’s handler but a Homer 33C employee. She works in the district’s business office as the accounting coordinator.


After learning one of Schilling School’s third-graders had died unexpectedly at home, she immediately volunteered to bring Toby to school to help students cope with the loss of their friend and classmate.


“Toby loves to cuddle,” she told students as she visited their classrooms with Principal Candis Gasa.


Homer 33C activated a team of counselors, psychologists and social workers to meet with students and staff who needed support and assistance. Toby was an instrumental member of the team.


He is an experienced volunteer, having comforted dozens of children and adults at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora and Oak Trace Nursing Home in Downers Grove. He’s even helped children learn to read, listening patiently as they read aloud to him in the Reading With Rover program at Joliet Public Library.


“Toby received his Therapy Dog International certificate when he was one year of age,” said Brom. “The training was rigorous, requiring him to demonstrate a natural ease with people and an ability to work in highly stressful situations.


“Only a few dogs have the right personality to be a therapy dog,” she added.


At Schilling, Toby showed he is a gentle Lab by remaining remarkably calm and patient around students and adults as they showered him with love. Somehow, he sensed when someone was sad or uncomfortable.


With a little encouragement, Brom even showed students how Toby is a good listener.


“You can tell Toby any secret in the world and he’ll keep it,” she assured them. “Sometimes that’s good because it helps you feel better.”


Students wasted no time taking turns petting Toby, giving him a hug and whispering in his ear. Several staff members did the same.


“All of us have been touched deeply by the death of someone so young,” said Superintendent Kara Coglianese. “We appreciate the special assistance Deborah and Toby provided our students and staff.


“We also appreciate the support and guidance that our caring and responsive counselors, psychologists and social workers provided as well as the strength and leadership of our experienced administrative team,” she continued. “We’re fortunate to have such individuals in our Homer 33C family — especially when words alone cannot express how we feel.”



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