A Shakopee woman was named last week as the 2020 Bryant Community Hero for her involvement in training and volunteering with her therapy dogs.
Connie Priesz was gifted a Bryant Evolution Air Purifier and ERV system for her home on Nov. 19, installed by Countryside Heating and Cooling Solutions, as a thank you for her contributions to the Twin Cities community.
“Connie is retired now and she spends most of her time training her two Vizsla dogs, Molly and Kimber,” explained Countryside Heating and Cooling Solutions Marketing Manager Lindsey Storm. “Connie’s dog Molly, is a 10-year-old Vizsla that has been a registered therapy animal with Pet Partners for 10 years. Kimber is a therapy dog in training. They also belong to North Star Therapy Animals, a Twin Cities group of registered Pet Partner therapy animals and she is on the board of the organization. To date, the therapy team has participated in hundreds of events, logged more than 3,000 volunteer hours and lifted the spirits of over 16,000 people.”
Prior to the covid-19 pandemic, Priesz and her dog Molly could be found visiting veterans at the Minneapolis VA Health Care Center, as well as other local hospitals and nursing homes. The pair also promotes literacy by letting children read to Molly at local schools and libraries.
Though their platform has changed since the pandemic uprooted life as everyone knows it, Priesz and Molly have stayed connected virtually by recording videos of Priesz reading with Molly.
“The pair also created a Facebook group called ‘The Therapy Animal Space’ for people with animals to stay connected and share stories during this global crisis,” Storm said. “She was awarded the AKC Paws of courage for her innovative thinking of how to keep the therapy animals visiting during covid-19 and connecting to the community. Her and Molly, and her North Star Therapy Group, are visiting by doing parades and window visits.”
Storm knows Priesz personally from when Priesz was her gym teacher and gymnastics coach at Orono schools, where the Community Hero spent 37 years teaching and 25 years coaching. Storm said Priesz is “the most positive, caring, and inspirational person I have ever met. She is one of a kind and has taught me and many others about leadership, hard work, building character and just being a good human being.”
To learn more about the Bryant Community Heroes Program, visit www.bryantcommunityheroes.com.