The Indiana Canine Assistant Network at Indiana University Bloomington (ICAN at IU) is a student-led organization founded in 2017 by ICAN Volunteer & Education Manager, Julie Mathias, that extends ICAN’s mission into southern Indiana and gives college students the opportunity to fundraise, educate and volunteer with the nonprofit.
Since its launch seven years ago, the organization has welcomed students with various majors and interests. And while their goals may differ, they’re brought together through one commonality: ICAN’s mission of unleashing abilities for Indiana children, adults, and veterans living with disabilities.
Currently, IU is the only campus with an ICAN club.
The club has its own elected executive board, consisting of roles such as President, Furlough Coordinators, Fundraising Directors, and more. These members, along with the help of their committees, work on projects like designing merchandise, setting up member events, and fundraising.
ICAN at IU also has its own furlough volunteer program consisting of full-time college students. Currently, nine furloughers live with a service dog in training for three weeks at a time on or near campus.
Being on a college campus has its own set of challenges for the dogs and furloughers, such as navigating large crowds, riding public transportation, and settling in lectures.
Many of these distractions are unique to IU, so the furloughers have built a tight-knit community together and often ask each other questions, get together to train, and have playdates with their dogs.
And thanks to their fundraising efforts and support from donors, ICAN at IU can provide their furloughers with all of the supplies needed to take care of a dog.
“Things like crates, toys, and bowls are not always easy to acquire for college students. So we are proud to provide those supplies and make furloughing accessible to anyone,” said Furlough Co-Coordinator Alex Kotarski.
And because there are places on campus where ICAN dogs can’t go, the group has launched its own special subset of volunteers called Public Access Volunteers (PAVs). PAVs are able to watch a dog for a couple of hours while the primary furlougher attends labs or exams. PAVs undergo the same training as furloughers to ensure they represent ICAN well.
“Our furloughers and PAVs do a wonderful job educating the college population on service dog etiquette and representing service dog teams positively,” said Furlough Co-Coordinator Anna Kelson.
As the club continues to grow, ICAN at IU remains focused on educating the community, teaching college students about proper service dog interactions, ICAN’s mission, and fostering a community of inclusivity.
ICAN at IU President Bailee Voegerl said, “It’s great to be able to talk with people in the community daily and extend the reach that ICAN has. With ICAN, I am learning valuable skills that I’ll need later in life that can’t be taught in a classroom.”
You, too, can make a difference in the lives of Hoosiers by training a dog for someone in need. If you’d like to help unleash possibilities, contact ICAN Volunteer and Education Manager Julie Mathias at email@example.com.