Blue Ridge Regional Hospital now offers pet therapy

Meet Jazz: The Siberian husky volunteers as the newest member of the recently implemented pet therapy program at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital. The program began in May. Photo courtesy of Mission Health

When Jazz enters Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, she is greeted with hugs and cheers. The hospital’s newest volunteer is a Siberian husky with the special ability to put a smile on every patient she meets.

Jazz is a participant in BRRH’s new Pet Therapy Program, which began May 8. The program was started to better serve the needs of patients and to help create a therapeutic environment to assist them on their path to healing.

“Experiencing our first pet therapy visit was so gratifying. From the moment Jazz entered the hospital, it was overwhelming to see the response of patients, families, staff and visitors. She was hugged, petted, cuddled and photographed,” says Barbara Hasty, director of volunteer services at the hospital. “She loved every minute, and so did the patients.”

Studies show the presence of animals has a positive effect on human physiology. According to the studies, pet therapy reduces feelings of stress and anxiety, decreases a patient’s blood pressure and heart rate and makes them feel at ease. Research also shows that after interaction with pets, patients report decreases in pain and improvements in overall mood.

“Therapy dogs do not care if you’ve had surgery or chemotherapy, or if you have a physical or mental disability. They are here to provide unconditional love. With the help of their human handlers, the dogs create a special bond with each patient that truly facilitates the healing process,” says Blue Ridge Regional Hospital President and CEO Oscar K. Weinmeister III. “We want to help our patients in any way we can while they are here with us.” — From Mission Health

First Restoration Services Holding Shoe Drive for Soles4Souls Charity at McCormick Field

First Restoration Services, a leader in disaster response, will be holding a charity shoe drive at McCormick Field before an Asheville Tourists game June 30 from noon to 3 p.m. First Restoration Services will be collecting any new or gently worn shoes, sandals, boots or other footwear for the Soles4Souls charity. In return, anyone who donates a pair of shoes will receive a general admission ticket, available to use that day or at a future Asheville Tourists game.

First Restoration Services started collecting shoes for Soles4Souls in January, with individuals dropping off their old footwear at 173 Rutledge Road in Fletcher. To date, First Restoration Services has shipped 366 pounds of shoes, which will be used to support the charity’s relief efforts, as well as their micro-enterprise program.

“Bringing relief to people in need fits perfectly with our company’s vision to improve people’s lives,” says Chris Silliman, president of First Restoration Services. “We are delighted that we can help people around the world experience a higher quality of life through this campaign".

Soles4Souls partners with progressive companies like First Restoration Services to directly impact people suffering from natural disasters or striving to break free from poverty.

“We have been proud partners with First Restoration Services for eight years and we are pleased to contribute to the worthy institution of Soles4Souls.” says Larry Hawkins, general manager of The Asheville Tourists.

Industries for the Blind Asheville receives $10.5-million contract, will create 20-plus jobs

Industries for the Blind (IFB) Asheville has started production on a $10.5-million contract with the Marine Corps to make all-purpose poncho liners for their troops. About 214,000 liners will be delivered over the next 12 months.

“We are excited about this new contract for many reasons; it means our current employees have plenty of work, and we are hiring 18 new employees to help us produce the liners,” says Randy Buckner, director of operations for IFB Asheville. 

IFB has produced every poncho liner for the military for the past 20 years, but this poncho liner is special. The Marines wanted a liner with a zipper that could function as a sleeping bag. They also wanted additional waterproof coating on the outside of the fabric to keep soldiers dry without them using the poncho. In addition to working as a sleeping bag, the liners can serve as blankets or ground cover.

IFB created the liners with NATICK, the organization that develops products for U.S. troops. Buckner explained that IFB developed the prototype and helped write the specifications.

“One important aspect of the liner is the zipper, which is polyester,” says Buckner. “Incorporating this type of zipper allows a soldier to leave his or her bag quickly and quietly.”

IFB employees must produce an average of 900 all-purpose liners per day to stay on track with their contract. According to Buckner, IFB employees are already making that happen.

— Send your health-and-wellness news and tips to Caitlin Byrd at or, or call 251-1333, ext. 140.

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