21 November, 2023.
PAWS Pet Therapy Inc., a Thirlmere-based nonprofit, won Liverpool Westfield's 2023 Local Hero award, securing a $20,000 grant. Founded by Sharon Stewart, the group offers pet therapy for people facing health or emotional challenges. "The award validates our volunteers' hard work," said Stewart. "The grant will help us extend our outreach and resources." Stewart, who has a 30-year nursing background, initiated PAWS in 2012. She saw firsthand how pets could positively affect patients' health. "Pet therapy releases happy hormones that benefit our wellbeing," she said. The charity has aided thousands in Wollondilly, offering therapy for various needs, including stress and cancer treatment. "It's a rewarding experience for all volunteers," Stewart emphasised. Part of a larger Westfield initiative, the Local Hero awards granted 126 community organisations funding across Australia and New Zealand this year. To volunteer, visit PAWS Pet Therapy Inc's website.