Growing Possibilities, One Child at a Time

aka W.A.G.S. 4 Kids   |   Berea, OH   |


W.A.G.S. 4 Kids is dedicated to providing service animals, exclusively for children with disabilities, utilizing our Award-Winning ODRC Accredited Service Dog Training Program.

All of the W.A.G.S. 4 Kids service dogs are currently trained at Grafton (GCI) & Mansfield (MANCI)Correctional Institutions where 36 inmates work with each of 18 dogs always in the program. Each dog provides therapeutic, task, emotional and physical support for children with disabilities and their families. The work of the inmate trainers is guided by the professional training staff of W.A.G.S. and each placement family receives in home transition training and ongoing training support.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Wendy Crann

Main address

112 E Center St

Berea, OH 44017 USA

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NTEE code info

Animal Training, Behavior (D61)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (G01)

IRS filing requirement

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The demand for service dogs is already there. There are children with life altering mental, physical and emotional challenges that are waiting for their turn at a friend for life. Our success empowers the disabled youth of Northeast & Central Ohio through the partnership of a mobility service or autism spectrum service dog trained by the inmates of Grafton & Mansfield Correctional Institutions who learn all the lessons of a way to live better. It is always the children and helping them with their individual challenges that is the most important to W.A.G.S. 4 KIDS. These are children we often see spending their lives having things done to them and for them. WAGS 4 Kids presents an opportunity for the child to reach out physically, emotionally, and even more. Nick Walczak and his partnership with his dog, Turner, is one of over 60 real life examples, examples of kids being able to say, “I'm not lonely anymore."

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Mobility Service and Autism Service Dog Training Program

W.A.G.S. 4 Kids is dedicated to providing mobility service and autism service animals, meeting the specific needs of children with disabilities in Northeast & Central Ohio, utilizing our Award-Winning ODRC Accredited Service Dog Training Program. We are driven by our belief in early intervention and will work with a family as early in a child’s life as there is a need and an interest.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Our enduring goal is to provide more dogs to more kids who need them without ever requiring them to leave their homes in order to receive services. We have the opportunity to open up a third prison training program at Trumbull County Correctional in the coming year. Additionally, two junior trainers have come on board - one from Northeast Ohio and one from Southeast Ohio to both help us with capacity as well as outreach. We aim to reach the entire state of Ohio in the next 5 years.

We have also branched out and begun work on our Step By Step Training Academy by offering our training programs online to the public as a means of empowering the public to have their best pet possible by learning the top 10 tasks every dog should know from the start.

Trainers visit each ODRC training institution on a weekly basis to assess the progress of each inmate with his assigned service dog in training. Weekly goals, skills basic to advanced placement specific task training, are taught to the group of 12 or more inmates and assignments and expectations are set for the next week. Each inmate is approved for the program by strict prison vetting procedures and W.A.G.S. staff interviews. Once accepted, each new trainer will be instructed by the more seasoned, inmate dog handlers and the W.A.G.S. training staff. Dogs are generally ready for placement between 18 and 22 months old, dependent on the specific skills training required. W.A.G.S. 4 Kids covers the cost of each animal acquisition, all veterinary needs, food, supplies and training. As well as the staff evaluation and training time with each of the applicant families and transition training of each dog into the family home. The dogs spend time trained by each of the inmates so they learn to take commands from different types of people. It also helps prevent bonding between a single inmate and a dog. For each of the men chosen to participate as handlers of a W.A.G.S. dog, there are two or more men waiting in the wings. These trainers job is to study, practice and learn our training methods. Their chance to train a dog will change a child's life.

Inmate apprentices, with the guidance and supervision of W.A.G.S. 4 Kids Staff Trainers will utilize the curriculum as published in "Step By Step" to achieve desired outcomes.

With the partnership of Sgt. Ivan Roberts at GCI, the Grafton project officially launched on June 9, 2014. Thirty-six inmates were identified as prospective inmate apprentices and are undergoing the same multi-phase interview process as has been established during its 7-years at MTC North Central Correctional Complex (NCCC). Since transferring from NCCC, Asst. Warden Norm Hills has paved the way to bring this program with him to GCI. W.A.G.S. 4 Kids plans on delivering the same award-winning success to GCI as has been recognized at NCCC. The same curriculum will be used with different inmates, but all for the same purpose…to help in the long term future and growth of W.A.G.S. 4 Kids and fulfill the wish of a service dog for another six children annually, all of them struggling with life challenges.

Assisting in this expansion effort is trainer Josh Allendar. A former NCCC inmate, Josh has a unique skill and perspective of a former inmate that we plan on utilizing to coach these men who are unaccustomed to having to work as a team in order to accomplish a common goal. Leading them will be our director of training, Lisa Schultz who has successfully graduated over 60 dogs from our cell dog training programs since 2007 and brings her 94 percent success rate to this new class of apprentices.

We have a very strong relationship with our community and its leaders. With an already strong foundation of long-term funding sources, we are planning on converting new, one-time large funding sources into annual givers and build out our the board of directors to lend additional support in the critical areas of fundraising and awareness, among other roles. Plans are being made to not just sustain the Grafton Project but expand it to be the National Training Center for Autism Assistance Dogs. Since the Grafton Project launch on June 9, 2014, six other prisons have invited W.A.G.S. 4 Kids to launch our Dog Training Apprenticeship Program at their locations. Instead, we are inviting them to come to us as a revenue source. With the training school operating out of a GCI facility, any rent paid to GCI would go back into the Grafton Project Fund. This new long-term funding source that along with our traditional methods family fundraising, special events, individual and corporate giving, will sustain the Grafton Project with further growth anticipated. Efforts will be revisited on an annual basis for analysis and revisions made as needed for the efficacy of the program.

The Training Academy

Availability and Accomplishment

Our first training program, “Dogs Don't Speak English"' is now the Accredited Apprenticeship Service Dog Training Manual for The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. Today, in Grafton Correctional Institution, this training course completion and mastery is the core of W.A.G.S. 4 KIDS re-entry Workforce Development Initiative. Inmate Trainers have the opportunity through practice, written testing and actual skills performance to be certified trainers for W.A.G.S. for Kids in six levels of training expertise.

Expanding our Mission through Education

The component of developing programing in four prison institutions has been the hands on involvement of our superior staff trainers and our commitment to being involved each week with the instruction/practice/correction model we employ with the inmate trainers. Requests come to us weekly from individual families in need as well as prison institutions wanting similar programming outside of our geographical area. The need for an educational tool, duplicating the very detailed examination of each skill a Service Dog must learn and the finite steps in teaching, has been developed, co-written by Wendy Crann and Justin Schaeffer, an inmate trainer at GCI . We will publish in 2016.

For those with professional goals in developing programming in other prison institutions or training programs as a W.A.G.S. 4 Kids subsidiary will be the development of The Working Animals Giving Service Training Academy. This will be an independently run physical space with hands on W.A.G.S. training staff and special instruction in how to manage the business of an institutional training program, including additional programming for basic medical and grooming needs, supplies and controls. The Training Academy will be our avenue to put into practice the real life goal of our Workforce Development Initiative; a place focused on re-entry for a certified former inmate trainer to have a career. The key to affecting any real life rehabilitation is through job creation.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback



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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


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Board of directors
as of 07/27/2020
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Elizabeth Peterkoski

Teamsters Local 647

Term: 2017 - 2020

David Siss


Lisa Burdett

Hyland Software

John Crowley


Andi Kornak

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Lauren Kotmel


Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes