MONROE, CT — Gilbert the therapy pig, wearing an Easter-themed bandana with pastel colors, busily walked around a circle of Masuk High School students seated on the floor. His tail wagging, the white-haired mini pig made stops in front of giggling students along the way, often nibbling on carrot sticks they fed to him.
Students also took turns holding up a picture frame to pose for a photo with the popular visitor. The frame read, “I kissed Gilbert and I liked it.”
Michelle Burns, of Glastonbury, brought her pet to the high school Tuesday for a Wellness Fair organized by ADAM (Alcohol and Drug Awareness of Monroe).
Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza stood by the door, while watching students play with the mini pig.
“This is awesome,” he said with a smile. “This is fantastic. Just look at all these kids. They’re having a great time. This is what it’s all about.”
Tammy Julian, co-chair of ADAM, said the Wellness Fair is meant to lower students’ stress levels during their free periods. On Tuesday, Masuk students took part in a variety of activities during their flex period, then STEM Academy students enjoyed the fair during their pause period.
On Wednesday, the Wellness Fair was also held at Jockey Hollow Middle School.
“This is the first Wellness Fair we’ve done,” Julian said. “Our hope is to bring awareness that you have to take care of yourself, manage your stress and enjoy life.”
“It’s a good way to remind kids to manage their stress and it helps with anxiety,” said Elizabeth Curci-Grose, co-chair of ADAM. “It’s just a day with fun activities and hopefully they take something from it.”
Aside from Gilbert, Masuk students could choose to participate in music therapy with Jenny Sokira, art therapy, meditation and yoga with Elaina Wieser, making grilled cheese with Chef Peggyann Diaz, coloring, Play-Doh, modeling clay and knitting, or going outside to make chalk drawings and play football and Frisbee, among the many activities.
In a room off the cafeteria, small groups of students took turns petting therapy dog, Maggie Mae. Kathy Maguire, of Sandy Hook, brought her golden retriever, who also visits hospices and works as a reading dog for children.
Ruthie Giduthuri, a freshman, sat on the carpet and pet Maggie Mae with her friends, sophomores Julia Sternthal and Claire Valle. “It’s really nice,” Giduthuri said. “It’s nice to get a break in general.”
Aside from Maguire, other dog handlers at the fair were Ava Chervansky and Debbie Lipman for dogs Luna and Hope.
Ann Odoy, an instructional leader in pupil services, extended her thanks to the ADAM committee for collaborating with the schools, teachers, administrators and counselors to make the fair possible.
Odoy said these programs help students to “reflect on their own joy and mindfulness, and to care for others and self.”