By participating in the Josh and Friends project, ISU pre-veterinary students are doing their part to help hospitalized children feel more at ease.

The Josh and Friends project was started in 1997 by Dr. Randy Lange, an ISU veterinary medicine graduate. It has now grown and is partnered with the Children’s Miracle Network, the American Legion Family and the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The mission of Josh and Friends is to provide comfort for children in the hospital by purchasing and presenting the children with Josh kits. The kits include the book "I’ll Be O.K." and Josh, a golden retriever stuffed animal.

The members of the Josh and Friends project purchase the kits and then visit the University of Iowa Children's Hospital to distribute the kits to the kids.

The members recently just set a date for their next visit, which will be October 12, 2013.

“We usually try to go there either once a semester or once a year,” said Kelsey Tekippe, sophomore in biology.

Tekippe is one of the two co-chairs for the Josh Project and has been a member since her freshman year.

“I was looking for a way to become more involved with the exec team, and I heard about the Josh Project and thought it was a really cool organization to be a part of,” Tekippe said.

The goal of the Josh Project is to raise money and purchase as many Josh kits as possible to deliver to the children.

Katie Imhoff, junior in animal science, said that a typical semester includes a fundraiser at Orange Leaf and writing  formal donation letters to businesses.

This year, the group walked in the Veishea parade with a golden retriever named Josh and handed out information cards to the public. 

Imhoff has been a member of the Pre-Veterinary Club since her freshman year and is the other co-chair for the Josh Project.

Josh kits are around $10 for each kit, and on the club’s previous visit, they purchased 16 kits to take with them to the hospital.

“The kit consists of a stuffed animal, Josh, and a book that teaches the kids that Josh is their friend and he can be there for them in the hospital when their parents can’t and to teach them that they shouldn’t be scared,” Imhoff said.

Members of the project personally travel to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital to distribute them.

“I love delivering the kits. I did it last spring, and it’s really great to see the smiles on their faces and how they light up when you give them the kit,” Tekippe said.

Imhoff also enjoys the hospital visits the most.

“I love visiting the kids in the hospital. Just seeing the enjoyment that they get out of it is really rewarding,” Imhoff said.

In addition to distributing the kits, the members stay for the afternoon and spend time with the children.

“We played games and did crafts with markers and construction paper with them. The kids were all really sweet,” Tekippe said.

Along with the two co-chairs in the Pre-Veterinary Club, there are also members at the ISU veterinary medicine school.

“There are two third-year vet students out at the vet school who are also co-chairs and help us out with the project,” Tekippe said.

Anyone interested in joining the Josh and Friends project is welcome, and can contact Tekippe or Imhoff for more information.

The Josh and Friends project started off small but now has branches all over the country.

The members of the ISU chapter are hoping to expand as well.

“Right now we travel to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, but were hoping to expand to the children’s hospital in Des Moines, and maybe even the hospital in Omaha,” Imhoff said.

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