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2024 May Volunteer of the Month - Crickett & The Stoddards

Crickett is a therapy dog, and she is “doggone” proud of it.  This canine care giver provides more than just companionship.  She offers health benefits to the patients she visits at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, Avera Majestic Bluffs and the Hospice House.  From reducing anxiety to helping with physical rehabilitation, it’s clear that Cricket and her trainer/owners Clay and Rachel Stoddard are valuable resources.   In people with a variety of ailments, a therapy dog can considerably lessen pain, stress, sadness, and tiredness.

Crickett has been volunteering since 2018 when Crickett and Clay started with visits to Majestic Bluffs.  They are both Hospice trained, so they also provide dog therapy for patients in Hospice.  During COVID, Clay and Rachel Stoddard and Crickett were some of the first volunteers to be permitted back in the facility to help relieve stress of the staff.  They added Arti, another dog therapist, to the group.  Now they continue to come to the hospital on Wednesdays.  They see staff, patients, and visitors while rounding the Avera Sacred Heart campus.  And they continue to visit with the residents of Majestic Bluffs on Fridays.

Carla Hummel, Director of Volunteer Services for Avera Sacred Heart said, “Clay and Rachel are very giving and compassionate.  We are very fortunate to have them in our community!  Clay and Rachel are wonderful to work with.  Being small business owners and still making time to volunteer is impressive.  They share their expertise with many but the best thing they share is their family of dog therapists; Crickett, Arti and sometimes even a puppy visit from Nexi.  Staff absolutely light up when Crickett and the rest of the family walk in the door.  Patients and Visitors are put at ease with her presence.  Residents reminisce about their own pets.”

Crickett is a model therapy dog.  She can sense when someone needs her attention and she is so patient and has such a willingness to serve, often bypassing medical equipment, noise, and unique situations.  Crickett volunteers approximately 80-100 hours per year at Avera Sacred Heart. 

Because of Crickett’s passion for making patients, staff and residents feel better; and the Stoddard’s willingness to teach her how and allow her to visit them, United Way & Volunteer Services of Greater Yankton was honored to present Crickett and the Stoddard’s with the May 2024 Volunteer of the Month Award.

We asked Clay and Rachel to share more about Crickett and the Stoddard’s volunteerism, in their own words:

We have lived here in the Greater Yankton area most of our lives.  Crickett was brought home with our family when we moved back after college.


Crickett began volunteering in 2018 when Clay and Crickett became a Certified Therapy Dog Team.  Rachel began in 2020 when Arti was added to the team.


We volunteer at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital where we visit every Wednesday for dog therapy.  We also serve Majestic Bluffs where we do dog therapy every Friday.  We also visit the Hospice House.


Approximate hours per year that we volunteer is around 100 hours.


Volunteer work is enjoyable because Clay and Rachel get to share my love of dogs with others.  Crickett gets to receive pets and sometimes treats!


Our best volunteer experiences are many!  Crickett thinks anytime she gets a treat is the best!


The advice I would give to those thinking about getting out there and volunteering in their communities is have fun and give whatever time you can!


Thank you, Crickett and Clay and Rachel Stoddard for all you do! To learn more about local volunteer opportunities or to nominate someone for United Way’s Volunteer of the Month Award, please visit, email, or call United Way of Greater Yankton at (605) 665-6766.

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