Brooke Stern believes that animals can play an important role in the healing process.
Stern, a sophomore at Kings Park High School, uses a trained therapy dog supplied by Patchogue Rotary Animal Assisted Therapy to boost the spirits of patients during monthly visits to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore and St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, among other facilities.
Her family also trains puppies to become guide dogs for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind Inc. in Smithtown.
"I've been raising guide dogs for as long as I can remember," said Stern, 15. "We'll socialize them. They're with us everywhere we go - movies, parks."
For two years, Stern has also volunteered for the Friendship Circle, a nonprofit that provides friendship and life-skills training to kids with special needs. Stern and a friend visit a mentally disabled teenager each week to play games.
She is also one of 40 Kings Park teens recently selected by the League of Women Voters of Smithtown to devise service projects.