Youth Development

Paws and Think, Inc.

Every Person. Every Dog.

aka Paws & Think   |   Indianapolis, IN   |


We are dedicated to improving lives through the power of the human-dog connection.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Kelsey Burton

Main address

1346 N. Delaware St.

Indianapolis, IN 46202 USA

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Cause area (NTEE code) info

Youth Development Programs (O50)

Animal Related Activities N.E.C. (D99)

Remedial Reading, Reading Encouragement (B92)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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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?

Youth-Canine program

Our youth canine programs engage students who may learn best by alternative teaching methods or who are in need of an unconditional, nurturing relationship in their lives. Through hands-on training, youths form a connection with the dogs instilling empathy and compassion and reinforcing positive reward methods of learning and training.

Population(s) Served
At-risk youth

Our trained volunteers take their therapy dogs to schools and libraries. Children at these venues read to the dogs. Since the dogs are nurturing and non judgmental, it builds the child's confidence and makes reading fun. Paws and Think, Inc. is an affiliate of Reading Education Assistance Dogs, providing training and consistency within our school and library programs.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth (0-19 years)
Economically disadvantaged, low-income, and poor people

Our trained, registered and insured therapy teams visit hospitals, nursing homes, adult day care centers. Science has found that healing is improved, blood pressure reduced, overall stress reduced and loneliness relieved during these visits. Memory care patients enjoy re-connecting with the dogs and tend to recall dogs they have had in the past.

Population(s) Served
Aging, elderly, senior citizens
People with disabilities

Where we work

Charting impact

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

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

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

**Our Youth-Canine programs seek two outcomes: one that the shelter dog, having been trained in basic manners, will be easily placed in a permanent home. The second has to do with the youth in the program. Here we expect to see improved listening skills, better at following directions, an understanding of positive reinforcement training methods, and compassion. We hope to see decreased recidivism rates and expanded interest in their future and increased empathy. **Our Paws to Read program uses the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program developed by Intermountain Therapy Animals. Our target population includes special education students and students in low-income areas, especially those who are not reading at grade level or who are suffering other emotional challenges that make the one-on-one time with the dog critical for them. We hope to improve their love of reading as well as fluency and comprehension. A side effect appears to be increased self-esteem and gained confidence. **Our Animal Assisted Activities and Therapies and **Paws to Heal have the goal of bringing the stress-relief and blood-pressure decrease that is a proven result of the touch and presence of a dog. Science has demonstrated improved healing times in those who have pets or pet visits. Patients with impaired memory diseases reconnect with old memories of dogs they once had. For some people, the simple joy of the unconditional love of a dog brings a joy to an otherwise dreary day. Focusing on the dog provides mental and physical stimulation for patients that can help them become less aware of their own pain and stress. Visits can even help to improve the relationship between a patient and caregiver because the dog helps to create an emotionally non-threatening space for communication, thus lowering resistance to intervention.

**Youth-Canine strategies include having the students do the actual training. They have a trained volunteer with them to provide guidance if necessary, but the strategy is to train the youth to train the dog. We reinforce the pride they should take the accomplishment ot a well trained dog. Using positive training methods expose the youth to ways of encouraging the wanted behavior that they most likely have never experienced. The youth in our program at the Juvenile Detention Center also bond with the dog's homelessness as they are feeling that themselves. And they become aware that decisions they make are what bring reward or consequences. **Reading Education Assistance Dogs are trained to be close to the child and pay attention to the book. The dogs are nonjudgmental and provide again the stress relief and blood-pressure drop seen with adults. This physiological condition opens the child's mind to greater learning. They focus on the book and the dog only, relaxing and enjoying the experience. Human facilitators are there to answer questions, but not interrupt. Fluency is encouraged by this. A break now and then serves to remind the child that if they have questions we are there to help. They begin to build trust in this relationship circle and will ask more questions and often explain to the dog what happened in the story, or ask the dog what he would have done. Their voices grow louder and stronger. A part of this program is consistency, keeping the team of handler, dog and student together every week over the course of the school year. **Animal Assisted Activities and Therapies' main strategy is the strength of the human-animal bond. Research continues to prove the value of this relationship. The dog encourages a patient to walk again, to throw a ball and build an injured shoulder back to health. The flush of oxytocin released is felt as a flush of joy in the patient. **Paws to Heal has partnered with St. Vincent Ascension is a proud sponsor of the St. Vincent’s Healing Arts Department and is generously funded through the St. Vincent Foundation. This strategic alliance has allowed the organizations to create a sustainable foundation to deliver comfort, healing, and compassion to all the lives and dogs we touch.

Through dedicated staff, volunteers, and many individuals, corporations, and grant donors, we are capable of delivering upon our goals and objectives, and ultimately, our mission and vision. We specifically concentrate on critical pillars of our organization: Programs & Impact, Marketing & Communications, Leadership & Culture, and Fundraising and Development, which are fundamental to ensure that we create an organization that will last for years to come.

We measure our success on several levels. We manage a strategic plan, measure impact and satisfaction, and monitor program costs. Our strategic plan focuses on four primary pillars: Program & Impact, Marketing & Communication, Leadership & Culture, and Fundraising & Development. We engage our venues, staff, and volunteers and get direct feedback on their satisfaction with each program. This engagement allows us to form collaborative and high-functioning teams, so we can better understand how our programs are received. We set goals for each of our programs and measure ourselves against those goals. We are also mindful of the importance of maximizing every dollar donated. To that end, we continue to enhance our financial oversight allowing us to manage better every dollar spent towards advancing our cause. We aggregate those mentioned above into useful and actionable items allowing us to adapt as the environment and needs of our key stakeholders change.

We have accomplished a great deal together. We continue to support our existing venues while taking on new ones. One of our biggest successes is the strategic alliance we formed with St. Vincent’s for the Paws to Heal program. This new alliance has and continues to be a successful venture that is genuinely having positive impacts on so many lives. Our donors continue to astound us with their generosity. Year-over-year, they continue to support us and our efforts all the while we continue to see new donors willing to support our mission. We are indebted to our therapy teams and all who volunteer. These individuals give up their time to serve others. Time - there is no more fabulous gift someone can give. We have many that support our organization and that support continues to grow, financially, and from volunteers. We are making a difference in the lives of so many. And, more and more people want to be part of that effort. We are truly humbled and grateful. Moving forward, we will continue to support our venues, as well as look for ways to expand and form strategic alliances that will help us achieve our goals and objectives. We have a robust community of supporters, and we have no doubt we will all be successful.


Paws and Think, Inc.

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


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Paws and Think, Inc.

Board of directors
as of 11/16/2019
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Nina Esbin

Retired, ITT Educational Services

Term: 2018 - 2019

Nina Esbin

Retired, ITT Educational Services, Inc.

Steven Barley

COO & Deputy Director, Indiana Public Retirement System

Leslie Brooks

Veterinarian & Owner, Indy Home Veterinary Services

Andy Schooler

Assurance Senior, Ernst & Young, LLP

Susan St. Angelo

Owner, My Trusted Partner

Jackie Kent

Sr. Director, Product Delivery Supply Planning & Systems, Eli Lilly & Co.

Blake Blanch

Vice President of Capital, Herman and Kittle Properties

Carol Stephan

Retired, Former Chair, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission

Lisa Jones

Broker/Real Estate Agent, F.C. Tucker

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? No
  • 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? No


therapy, literacy, canines, dogs,youth,pet, pet therapy, animal assisted therapy, animal assisted activities, reading, R.E.A.D.,