A partnership between Loveland-based
and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
will let sick kids visit their pets at the first ever hospital based animal visitation center in the United States.
CancerFree KIDS, a non-profit group that has raised $1.3 million in the past decade to help fund pediatric cancer research, will use a $107,500 grant awarded to them by Impact 100
to build the visitation center at Children’s Hospital sometime next spring, says Ellen Flannery, founder and executive director of the group.
“The Pet Center will be a model for similar facilities in other children’s hospitals, increasing the impact of the grant,’’ says Flannery, whose now 15-year-old daughter is a cancer survivor. “We are thrilled to win the grant.”
Flannery and her husband Sam founded CancerFree KIDS after their daughter, Shayna, was diagnosed with cancer in both of her eyes at just five months old. Shayna lost one of her eyes to the cancer and – thanks to advances in pediatric cancer research – was successfully treated.
“She’s a healthy, bratty 15-year-old, I am happy to say,” Flannery says.
Celebrating its 10th year, the non-profit’s goal is to continue to raise money through fundraisers, sponsorship or through grants to continue to help fund pediatric cancer research at Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital.
Applying for the Impact 100 grant aligned with that mission.
Research has shown that a pet can improve not only a sick person’s emotional well-being, but also has positive and measurable physical outcomes as well, she says. There is a similar pet visitation area at the Alberta Children’s Hospital
in Alberta, Canada.
Flannery received multiple letters and emails from social workers, hospital staff as well as children and adults suffering with long-term illnesses who supported such a center.
A 12-year-old blind boy, battling brain cancer since he was four months old, wrote: “I hate spending time in the hospital … My favorite time of any day has been to go home and ‘chillax’ in my bed and my dog crawls under the covers and gets as close as possible. I feel like she has always been there for me, and I can tell her anything. She will make noises so I know she is listening, and I do not feel as alone.”
A 14-year-old girl who lives out of state and travels to Children’s for months at a time to receive treatment for re-lapsed leukemia told Flannery she most misses her puppy, Abe.
“Abe is my comfort blanket in a way and someone who listens to me without any comments only support,’’ the teen wrote. “I really miss him all the time.”
The center, which will be wheelchair and hospital-bed accessible, will have multiple visitation bays where children undergoing long-term stays can visit with their pets. The center will have electricity, but will not be heated or cooled, she says.
As part of the agreement, Children’s will continue the ongoing upkeep and maintenance of the building. Flannery says she is hopeful the visitation area can also be a place where, one day, children who don’t have pets can also schedules visit with animals.
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By Chris Graves
Chris Graves is Assistant Vice President of Digital and Social Media at the Powers Agency.