Josh Project Delivers Comfort at UIHC

By Nicole Agee, KCRG-TV9

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Between needles and tests, hospitals can be a scary place for kids. Students at Iowa State University want to ease those fears with a four-legged friend named Josh.

TV9 first heard about Josh last summer on RAGBRAI. Dr. Bill Williams, a veterinarian from Ames, strapped Josh and a helmet to his handlebars. His ride raised money to bring Josh to Iowa hospitals, including the pediatric unit at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

The real Josh is a golden retriever from Tennessee, who helped his family through a scary time in the hospital. His owner’s daughter had to have a tonsillectomy and was scared about surgery. That’s what inspired Dr. Randy Lange to create Josh kits. They include a stuffed Josh and the book, “It’ll be O.K.”, which is Josh’s story about getting well at the veterinarian’s office. He now visits hospitals across the country. “We bring them in hopes that it will bring comfort and happiness,” says Joseph Darrington, a fourth year ISU student.

Eight year old Anna is almost done with a six week stay. For the last year, she’s been in and out of the hospital with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

“When she finds out she has to come to the hospital, she bawls and cries and is sad,” says Anna’s 11-year-old sister, Jayden. “Whenever we need someone to talk to or someone to hug or when we’re sad, we can use Josh.”

“Since September, there’s only been a four week time span where Anna has not been in the hospital, at all,” says Anna’s mom, Audrey Reed, who stays with Anna during each hospital visit. “Things she doesn’t want to tell me that she’s scared about, she’ll tell her {stuffed} animals about.”

The vets also visited 18-month-old Alexis, who suffers from Turner’s syndrome and a cyst putting pressure on her brain. She was all smiles with her stuffed Josh and new book. “We like to talk about the human/animal bond and how it can really impact a person,” says Darrington. “We’re going to work to get into as many hospitals as we can, just to get these kits out for kids so they can have a little bit of comfort.”

Earlier this year, vet students at Iowa State visited kids at Mercy in Des Moines. Dr. Williams plans to ride part of RAGBRAI again this summer to raise more money for Josh kits.

For more information on the Josh Project, visit www.joshandfriends.com.

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