Sick kids and shelter kitties benefit from new hospital program

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Kids in isolation at hospital to play remotely with pets in need of adoption

Wolfson Children’s Hospital and Jacksonville Humane Society’s Play with Cats program brings joy to both kitties and kids.

On April 7, 2015, Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, and the Jacksonville Humane Society (JHS) officially launched the Play with Cats program, a collaborative project that gives children in isolation the chance to play with shelter kittens and cats from the Jacksonville Humane Society without actually being in the same room.

The system, from which was created by Reach-In, uses high-speed data networks, high-definition cameras and interactive toys to put kids in control of three different cat toys at the shelter with the push of a button, and then the ability to watch on the TV as the animals react and play with them. Patients who are in isolation with a specific treatment or a chronic medical condition like cystic fibrosis or bone marrow transplant can now do what many other kids at Wolfson Children’s Hospital already enjoy; visit with an adorable furry friend.

Made possible with a $15,000 grant from the Mattel Children’s Foundation, the Play with Cats program connects to 151 hospital rooms throughout Wolfson Children’s Hospital via GetWellNetwork.

“Play through programs like the Play with Cats project has a powerful normalizing effect on a child’s hospital stay,” said Wolfson Children’s Hospital President Michael D. Aubin.

Wolfson Children’s Hospital has long recognized the healing power of pets. The Wolfson Children’s Hospital Auxiliary started a Pet Therapy Program in 1995. Two years ago, the hospital opened a pet visitation program, allowing children with long-term stays or in end-of-life situations to receive a visit from their own dog.

“This is the latest program to be implemented at Wolfson Children’s Hospital to give more of our patients a chance to interact with a kitten or cat, which provides a welcome distraction.” said Pat Kirkland, Family Support Services Manager at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “About 20 percent of our patients are on isolation at some time during their stay, so we are excited to bring the healing power of an animal friend to the bedside.”

“Our partnership with Wolfson Children’s Hospital began with JHS veterinarians providing required vet checks and vaccines that allow patients in the hospital to visit with their own dogs. We are proud to expand the partnership using iPet so that all patients may benefit from the healing power of animals,” said Denise Deisler, executive director of the Jacksonville Humane Society.

The Play with Cats program was made possible by financial support from Mattel Children’s Foundation.

“Mattel has supported Wolfson Children’s Hospital for years. This latest funding from Mattel will allow us to implement the iPet Companion System at the hospital and at the Jacksonville Humane Society to allow children in isolation to interact remotely with kittens and cats,” says Michael Aubin. “Play through programs like this has a powerful normalizing effect on a child’s hospital stay.”

“Children in isolation will benefit the most from our iPet program, especially our Bone Marrow Transplant patients because they can’t get a visit from our Pet Therapy Program dogs,” says Pat Kirkland, who wrote the grant application to Mattel.

“One of the difficulties children face during an extended hospital stay is maintaining the joy of childhood through the many procedures and treatments they undergo,” said Children’s Hospital Association President and CEO Mark Wietecha. “The Mattel Children’s Foundation Play Grants will support children’s hospitals in their quest to create healing environments that allow children to engage in play and, frankly, just be kids.”






About Wolfson Children’s Hospital
Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, serves as our region’s pediatric referral center and only hospital just for kids. The 213-bed, patient- and family-centered hospital features an environment filled with bright colors, warm smiles and the latest children’s medical technology. At Wolfson Children’s, nationally recognized pediatric specialists representing nearly every medical and surgical specialty work with pediatricians to provide care for children of all ages with diabetes and endocrine disorders, congenital heart conditions, cancer, neurological disorders, orthopaedic conditions, behavioral health disorders, and more. The hospital is staffed by pediatric nurses and other healthcare professionals specially trained to work with children. Wolfson Children’s pediatric partners include Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Jacksonville, the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, and Mayo Clinic. For additional information, please visit

About Reach-In
Under development since 2003, Reach-in allows for zero-delay video streaming and long-distance interactions over the internet. Reach-in’s technology allows expertise to be applied over the web without requiring travel nor downtime. Experts from virtually any field (gaming, surgery, teaching, etc.) can apply their abilities through the web without leaving their home or office. Reach-in works diligently to deliver cutting-edge solutions that foster a forward-facing internet evolution. More information at

About the Jacksonville Humane Society
The Jacksonville Humane Society provides care, comfort and compassion to animals in need while engaging the hearts, hands and minds of our community to bring about and end to the killing of abandoned and orphaned shelter animals. More information about the Jacksonville Humane society is available at

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