CINCINNATI -- Everyone knows that a dog can be a man's best friend, but entrepreneur Kristina Irby believes they can be a hurting child's best friend as well. She hopes her non-profit, The Healing Spot, can help vulnerable children form healing connection with abandoned dogs for the betterment of all.
The Healing Spot has been a yearslong dream of Irby's she said Tuesday. MORTAR, a nine-week business accelerator aimed at enabling "under-served" entrepreneurs in Over-the-Rhine to build their startups, finally helped her realize it.
MORTAR recently expanded to Avondale with help from a grant from Cincinnati Children's.
"It's not just about entrepreneurship and making money," MORTAR alumna Erikka Gray said. "It's, how do you give back to your community? How do you grow the community that you're in so that everybody has access to that capital and that growth?"
Irby's idea started with Laila, an abandoned dog she rescued. Laila was deaf but did not realize it and had no idea how to adjust to her new home; she spent her time in Irby's house crying for help and attention like a human child would do.
"Laila was one of my stories," Irby said. "She was very traumatized; clearly trying to survive as a deaf dog wasn't easy. One day, I had one of the foster children who's autistic, and there was an immediate bond. I saw that vision right there that day."
The Healing Spot will work to help dogs like Laila by welcoming children in foster care and other social programs to train them. Those children will be referred by social services, and Irby said she believes forming a loving bond with an animal can help fill some of their need for comfort and compassion.
"(We want) to restore their voices and to give them hope and remind them that you're very much loved," she said. "You are not responsible for your circumstances."