For Charleston children battling illnesses, the “dog days of summer” just got a little brighter with the expansion of the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation’s Dogs for Joy program. The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston has been granted two trained in-residence dogs, celebrated during a canine-themed “Day of Joy” welcome event on August 21st.
The welcome party in the Atrium gave the patients, staff, and their families a chance to celebrate the newest canine team members while enjoying dog-themed crafts, including the creation of a large welcome banner, a bagel and coffee bar and the unveiling of a giant box of dog supplies, ranging from bedding to toys. Current service dogs from the hospital’s program were in attendance to help educate guests on their role in the hospital.
Formally launched in 2018, the Joy in Childhood Foundation’s Dogs for Joy program places highly specialized in-residence dogs as full-time members of children’s hospital care teams. These dogs are critical parts of patients’ treatment plans, trained to do tasks like teach kids how to take a pill, keep a child calm during a medical intervention, provide incentives for a child to get out of bed for a walk, and much more. The Medical University of South Carolina submitted a successful grant proposal to the Dogs for Joy team earlier this year.
“We have found that these are truly dogs for joy," Carolyn Donohue, the Executive Director of Nursing for Children’s and Women’s Services at MUSC, said. "In-residence service dogs serve as ‘therapeutic agents’ and help maintain a positive outlook during a hospital stay. The simple act of patting a dog produces a relaxation response, releases calming endorphins, lowers blood pressure, and can even help lower overall physical pain. Dogs bring joy to all, and help the healing process."
The prevalence of animal-assisted therapy as part of treatment is rising as dogs demonstrate beneficial effects on pediatric patients and staff. According to Kari McHugh, executive director of the Joy in Childhood Foundation, “When kids face serious illness, it robs them of the simple joys of childhood. The Joy in Childhood Foundation is always seeking new ways to help kids feel like kids, even on their most difficult days. We are proud to partner with The Medical University of South Carolina – one of the best children’s hospitals in the nation - to bring joy to pediatric patients with animal-assisted therapy as part of their treatment.”
Starting this last July, the first round of grants from the Foundation’s $2 million grant program will provide 11 well-trained dogs to nine premiere pediatric hospitals nationwide, bringing joy and animal-assisted therapy in residence to nearly 150,000 pediatric patients and their families.
Other hospital partners recently announced include:
- Children’s Hospital Colorado (Denver, CO)
- Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (Atlanta, GA)
- Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA)
- CHOC Children’s Hospital (Orange, CA)
- The Children’s Hospital at OU Medicine (Oklahoma City, OK)
- Cleveland Clinic Children’s (Cleveland, OH)
- Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida (Ft. Myers, FL); and
- Yale New Haven (New Haven, CT)
To be eligible, applicants must be a children’s hospital or general hospital with a dedicated pediatric department and be within geographic proximity to Dunkin’ or Baskin-Robbins locations. Grants may cover veterinary and other related costs. Hospitals interested in future Dogs for Joy grants may learn more at www.joyinchildhoodfoundation.org/dogsforjoy and inquire about eligibility and participation at [email protected].