I'm Squealing Over Dunkin's New "Joy Officer," Who's Leading Their Dog Assistance Program
If you were a Dunkin' fan before, get ready to double down on your love and admiration for the coffee and donut company. Dunkin's philanthropic arm, the Joy in Childhood Foundation, is launching a full-time service dog program called Dogs for Joy. If you're already squealing with delight, there's more — Dunkin's Dogs For Joy program includes the sweetest canine named Cooper Dunkin' as its Chief Joy Officer, undoubtedly the most important role in the entire organization.
Cooper will be the face and program ambassador for Dogs for Joy, a program powered by Dunkin' and Baskin-Robbins to "dramatically increase the number of in-residence dog programs in pediatric healthcare settings around the country and the prevalence of animal-assisted therapy as part of treatment," according to the official press release. Through this independent charitable foundation, more than $2 million in initial grants will be provided to children's hospitals nationwide to implement and maintain dog facility programs of their own. Funds will cover expenses like dog adoption, staff training, dog food, dog grooming needs, dog toys, and more.
During his time in this very important role, Cooper will make special appearances across the country and visits to hospitals nationwide. It just doesn't get cuter than that, folks. In an exclusive interview with Elite Daily, Kari McHugh, executive director of the Joy in Childhood Foundation, described Cooper Dunkin' as "floppy-eared" and "absolutely lovely," and shared that his favorite snacks were bananas and apples.
Here are some adorable pictures of Cooper Dunkin', the goodest half-chocolate lab, half-golden retriever around:
The Dogs for Joy program is the first of its scale in the country. Although the dogs will be trained as service animals, they'll assist patients full-time in children's hospitals where they will provide an alternative focus from pain, help pediatric patients lower anxiety levels, and even teach humans how to take pills or put on hospital gowns.
McHugh talked about the purpose and vision of the program in the press release, and shared a touching personal side to the story that explains her passion for this project. She said:
Our mission is to bring joy to kids in truly meaningful ways. We are proud to launch Dogs for Joy and bring the important benefits of in-residence dogs to more doctors, nurses, child life specialists, and most importantly parents and kids. As a mother who has cared for a child with cancer, my family and I know well the happiness these dogs create on even the worst days, and the powerful, positive impact a relationship with a dog can make. I'm thrilled we can bring that joy to as many facilities and families as possible.
McHugh explains to me that the program was created after the organization talked to doctors, nurses, child life specialists, parents, and kids to better understand how The Joy in Childhood Foundation could serve them and create greater impact in hospital communities where children are receiving medical care. "Through these interviews, we learned a bunch of things," McHugh said. "The two we really held onto ... this idea of the transformative impact of animals and dogs."
The Joy in Childhood Foundation was founded in 2006 to "provide the simple joys of childhood to kids battling hunger or illness," per the organization's website. Some of the organization's work includes providing grants for nonprofits, supporting local food banks, and building kid-friendly spaces for children in hospitals. Since its beginning, the foundation has granted $18 million to more than 200 organizations focused on children’s health and hunger relief, and has provided more than 1 million meals to children and families through its partnership with Feeding America. Talk about serious impact.
Children's hospitals across the United States can apply for a Dogs of Joy grant until March 31, 2019, so children in treatment can experience the true joy of a furry friend by their sides.