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Founder of Roxy Therapy Dogs recognized at retirement celebration


Diane Smith, founder and former president of Roxy Therapy Dogs, retired late last year. Last week, she was recognized for her vision and dedication at a celebration at the Plumsteadville Inn in Pipersville.

New and long-standing volunteers, Roxy board members, community members, Smith’s husband, children, and grandchildren were on hand to toast her.

Smith spoke about her experiences with Roxy over the decades, including quotes from cards she kept in hatboxes and drawers. “Therapy dogs are powerful tools,” wrote one teacher. “The dog makes me feel like I’m on a fluffy cloud, but I’m really at school,” wrote a student.

Addressing the volunteers, Smith told a story:

My son played lacrosse in college, and we often went to watch his games. During halftime at one in New York, a player from the opposing team — a big guy — runs across the field in full gear, gives me a bear hug, and leans down to pet Roxy. He takes off his helmet, and to my surprise, it was Cameron, who I met when he was in second grade, in Mrs. Bergstresser’s first class. Don’t doubt for a minute that you make a positive impression on your kids. You absolutely do, and it lasts.

She closed with, “I have two wishes for Roxy Therapy Dogs: that this valuable and unexpected resource is always available to kids who need us and that we continue to attract volunteers with integrity and warm hearts, willing to share their time and therapy dogs with the Roxy family.”

Roxy Therapy Dogs’ current president, Sharon Fleck, presented Smith with a bronze plaque that will memorialize her service to the community when it is placed next to a tree that will be planted in her honor this fall at Gayman Elementary School.

The celebration committee included Catherine Refice, Linda McCrillis, Phyllis Mikolaj, Sharon Fleck, and Liza Fisher Norman.

Roxy’s origin began in the early 2000s when Diane saw how a therapy dog brought her grandmother, suffering from Alzheimer’s, out of her shell and into the present in a way Diane had not seen in a long time. Those moments inspired Diane to adopt Roxy, a Boykin Spaniel, and train as an emotional therapy dog team. In 2005, Roxy’s love of children prompted Diane to visit Gayman Elementary, her son’s school and encouraged children with reading challenges to read aloud to Roxy.

In 2024, Roxy Therapy Dogs has 70 certified therapy dog-handler teams and 30 individuals who volunteer without a dog. Roxy serves 3,200 school-age children per week in the greater Doylestown area through six programs: “Roxy Reading” (the flagship program), Student Specialized Support, Courthouse Companionship, Secondary School Stress Relief, Pediatric Comfort, and Roxy Responders.

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