Bunny Besties Make it Better

Anna Schwab, Managing Editor of Sports & Wellness

There are many ways to care for your health, specifically your mental health. One club at Minnetonka working toward better wellness in our community is Bunny Besties Young Leaders, an important chapter in the non-profit, Bunny Besties. They bring bunnies to groups all over the community hoping to brighten days and improve the mental health of others.

They serve all age groups, but have an extra devotion to improving the mental health of the elderly in the community, especially after they struggled with isolation during the pandemic. Bunny Besties has served over 25,000 people and continues to add to that number every day.

A lot of the club’s events consist of visiting nursing homes with the bunnies. They allow the residents to watch the bunnies hop around and also allow people to hold and pet the bunnies while visiting with one of the volunteers. Just by watching the bunnies, the faces of those around the room light up.

Two involved Bunny Bestie Young Leaders are Signe Van Wyk, ‘24, and Ruby Mae Karason, ‘23.

Van Wyk said, “I think that sometimes the nursing home visits can feel a little bit sad, and down in emotion, especially at first because a lot of times they just don’t have anyone visiting them. Sometimes they don’t really get visibly joyed by the rabbits, but I think it is more the feeling of knowing that you are there, that means something.”

The club even had an event in the commons during finals week last month. Students were able to pet and watch the bunnies during their lunch periods and passing time, allowing them to relieve some stress.

Karason said there have been many memorable experiences since joining the club. “It is a wonderful experience, being able to do so many leadership opportunities, all for the greater good,” she said. “On top of that, you get to make someone’s day. There have been multiple people that have come up to me, students, people in memory care, all sorts of people. They tell me, ‘I am going through a really tough time right now,’ ‘this made my day,’ and ‘this was very impactful.’ Hearing that and just knowing that what I am doing is making a difference, is touching and really impactful to me.”

Karason also touched on their overall impact on the wellness of those in the community. She said, “Overall it brings a lot of comfort and security to your mental wellness. A really great strategy if anyone is feeling stressed or anything is calming yourself with an animal. It is really calming to the mind and overall to your body. I think it reaches a lot of people’s love languages and their comfort, knowing that they feel loved by these animals and the people in their community.”

Studies have shown that interacting with animals improves your health. It decreases levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone; lowers your blood pressure; can reduce loneliness and boost one’s mood.

Van Wyk also said, “I think it isn’t always about the rabbits, but more as a means of connecting with people. You have a rabbit and you can make that connection, allowing whoever you are with to feel this love from the community.”

So the next time when someone  is feeling lonely, down, or stressed, they should try interacting with an animal and see if that helps.