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The Josh and Friends Project brings comfort to children preparing for surgery

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As part of the Josh and Friends Project kit, the Josh dog is allowed into the surgery room and may also wear an outfit related to the surgery. The kids also get to keep the dogs and bring him in for any follow-up appointments. Credit: Isabelle Beecy / Lantern reporter

As part of the Josh and Friends Project kit, the Josh dog is allowed into the surgery room and may also wear an outfit related to the surgery. The kids also get to keep the dogs and bring him in for any follow-up appointments. Credit: Isabelle Beecy / Lantern reporter

For many children, the idea of surgery can be confusing or scary, but the Josh and Friends Project hopes to alleviate those fears.

The idea was created by Randy Lange, a Tennessee veterinarian whose daughter needed surgery, according to the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine website.

Sarah Carpenter, the former president of the OSU chapter of The Josh and Friends Project, said the Josh and Friends Project aims to comfort and support young patients with a program designed just for them.

“(The vet) found that there weren’t very many resources for children to get to know what they might anticipate while they’re (at the hospital), so he wrote (a) book,” she said.

Carpenter said the program provides students with a book about a dog named Josh titled “I’ll Be Okay,” which intends to help children understand what surgery is and to know what to expect. The kits also include a stuffed animal version of Josh and a card from a veterinary student at OSU.

The kits are also meant to help the patients decrease their stress level prior to surgery, according to Janelle Mitchell, the child life specialist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The Josh dog is allowed into the surgery room and may also wear an outfit related to the surgery, such as a surgical mask, head bonnet or gloves, Mitchell said. The kids also get to keep the dogs and bring him in for any follow-up appointments.

Kids are not the only ones helped by the kits, Mitchell added. She said that the families of the children who receive Josh kits think it can turn a potential negative into a positive. She said they also see them as a coping strategy for children who need surgery.

In order to help provide Josh kits to hospitals, the OSU chapter holds fundraisers throughout the year in order to raise the necessary money to buy enough kits for hospitals. The biggest fundraising event of the year for the chapter is the letter-writing campaign, where the project gets the vet students involved.

The chapter also does merchandise sales, bake sales and sales of tie-dyed lab coats to raise money to purchase Josh kits for hospitals.

Another fundraising event is the annual “Penny War” between the first- and second-year veterinary students, said Yung Yung Chan, the newly-elected president of the OSU chapter. Each veterinary class tries to earn points for its year by placing pennies in their designated jar. Meanwhile, they also try to take points away from the other year by placing coins other than pennies in the other year’s jar.

“It is a fun event because we have a lot of participation with the entire first- and second-year students,” Chan said.

Josh kits, which include the “I’ll Be Okay” book and a stuffed Josh dog, are able to be purchased for $40 on the Josh and Friends Project website.

So far this year, the OSU chapter has been able to send out 24 kits to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland. Last year, the chapter was able to send 56 kits in total.

As someone who had surgery as a child, Chan said she thinks surgery can be a big challenge for kids who undergo it, but hopes the project will encourage kids throughout the procedure.

“I think encouraging words and a companion animal will be the best thing to help them go through the entire process,” she said.

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