BELVIDERE (WIFR) -- More than 400 students who survived the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre have returned to class and they're starting in a new building with comfort dogs, two of which are from the Stateline. 23 News sat down with the volunteers before they left.
They are described as some of the first smiles after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The pictures were taken just a day after the tragedy, and now, weeks later, these dogs have become familiar faces outside an unfamiliar Connecticut classroom.
"There is something about a nice soft dog that just wants you to pet them.”
Nearly 20 Stateline volunteers, including two comfort dogs from Belvidere’s Immanuel Lutheran Church are spending the week greeting hundreds of students who are returning to the classroom for the first time since the Newtown tragedy.
"I can't imagine the pain they are going through,” said Renea Grashorn.
Renea Grashorn is one of those local volunteers. She takes care of "Kye,” a dog the church adopted a year ago.
Grasshorn says the experience has been life changing. “They can pet her, they can lay on her, they can snuggle with her and I think petting her will be a joy to them."
Grasshorn says some Newtown students were too scared to come to class, until they heard the dogs would be there to comfort them. She says every little hand on Kye's fur has brought a sense of unity to a town trying to move forward.
To learn more about Kye, you can check out her Facebook page. The site allows people to follow the pet’s journey. Immanuel Lutheran Church bought the dog after two Belvidere North cheerleaders were killed in a car accident last winter. Kye has helped with multiple tragedies.
Just to be clear, the kids now attend a refurbished school in a nearby town. The volunteers are expected to come home tomorrow.