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Riley Children's Foundation Receives $63,000 Grant From PetSmart Charities

Pet Therapy

Riley Children’s Foundation and PetSmart Charities know that pets have the remarkable ability to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, improve our mood and bring us unconditional love. That’s why, with the help of a $63,000 grant from PetSmart Charities, the Riley Hospital for Children Pet Therapy Program is aiming to improve quality of life and provide a healthy diversion from the usual hospital routine for children while receiving treatment. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and the safety of our Riley patients, pet therapy volunteers are on a break. They look forward to jumping back into action (and back into patient beds) – with all four paws – as soon as possible.

With this grant, the Pet Therapy Program will increase the number of volunteer therapy dog team interactions to an estimated 2,000 patients and their families annually.

“Pet Therapy here at Riley provides a chance for our patients to still be kids while in the hospital,” said Kim Ziegler, Certified Child Life Specialist and Pet Therapy Coordinator for the Child Life Department at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. “Pet Therapy is a great way to help normalize the hospital environment and provide a sense of comfort and relaxation during a stressful time. With help from PetSmart Charities, we will be able to continue to grow our program and increase the number of patients and families the program can reach. Also, as a Certified Child Life Specialist, I will be able to accompany our teams and be present during visits in order to assess how each patient is coping during their hospitalization and provide services that are individualized to each patient and their family.”

“We are thrilled to continue to support the expansion of the Pet Therapy Program at Riley Hospital,” said Kelly Balthazor, regional relationship manager at PetSmart Charities. “The program has proven to change the way pediatric patients receive care through the healing power of pets, and we look forward to seeing the positive impact the larger team is sure to have on both patients and staff when therapy dog teams return to the hospital.”

Across North America, PetSmart Charities has granted more than $2.3 million to support animal assisted therapy programs. Funding from PetSmart Charities supports best practices that enhance the human-animal bond. Since 1994, the leading funder of animal welfare has donated nearly $430 million to improve access to veterinary care, to help preserve families, to positively impact communities, and to connect people and pets through initiatives like this program with Riley Children’s Foundation.