Bringing sick kids and their pets back together

11 April 2023 | Expected time to read: 4 minutes

Bryson and Ryder

Today, on National Pet Day, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation (SCHF) has partnered with Petbarn Foundation to help deliver specialised pet gardens as part of the redevelopments for Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. The pet gardens will be a first of their kind for the hospitals. 

Many young people in hospital aren’t just homesick for their parents. Some miss home-cooked meals or going to school with their friends. For a lot of children, being away from their family pet is one of the hardest parts of their healthcare journey.

Thanks to a generous philanthropic gift from Petbarn Foundation, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation can make that journey a little easier by supporting dedicated spaces for children undergoing treatment to see their pets, large or small, inside the hospital grounds.

Brothers Bryson, 10, and Ryder, 5, have spent much of their childhood undergoing life-saving treatment for rare brain conditions across the Sydney’s Children’s Hospitals Network.

At only two-and-a-half years old, Bryson was diagnosed with a tennis-ball sized cancerous brain tumour that needed urgent surgery and six months of intense chemotherapy at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

Five years later, his premature brother Ryder, was rushed to Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick with a dangerous bacterial infection. At just two weeks old, Ryder had the first of 18 life-saving brain surgeries.

After being away from home for months at a time, the brothers longed to be back with their family, cuddling and playing with their furry best friends, Bronx their Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Charlie their chocolate Labrador.

Bryson and Charlie

Tamara, Bryson and Ryder’s mum, said:

“There’s something so special about the connection between kids and their pets. I know how much joy our dogs bring the boys, so when they were away from home and spending a lot of time in hospital, they really did miss them a lot. I’m so excited about the pet gardens and am really happy to know that families will be able to bring this little piece of home to hospital.”

Research1 has shown that having animals around can boost healing and improve a range of physical, psychological and social health advantages for both children and adults. In particular, animals can increase morale, reduce loneliness and stress, and build self-confidence and self-esteem.

Kristina Keneally, Chief Executive Officer at Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation, is delighted to partner with Petbarn Foundation to bring these pet gardens to life.

“For Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation, Petbarn Foundation, the patients and hospital community, pets are truly a part of the family. Whether it’s a dog or cat, we want to reunite sick kids with their pets and make our hospitals as comfortable as they can be,” she said,

“Creating spaces that feel more like home, that promote health and wellbeing and focus on family togetherness is at the heart of the work we’re doing to support the redevelopment projects across Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network.”

Established in 2012, the Petbarn Foundation has donated an amazing $24 million to help animal welfare groups and rescue organisations throughout Australia, and continues to support thousands of pets, animals and the people who love and care for them every day.

“The Petbarn Foundation is proud to support the Sydney Children's Hospitals Foundation to introduce the first-ever pet gardens at The Children's Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick,” says George Wahby, CEO, Greencross Pet Wellness Company.

“Pets play an integral role in any family and can offer a unique source of comfort in the healing process. It is our privilege to support these pet gardens and help reunite sick children with their pets, providing a familiar sense of home during their hospital stay. We truly believe these pet gardens will have a significant positive impact on the lives of young patients and their families.”

At Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, the space will be conveniently located in the new forecourt plaza, adjacent to a kids play area and sensory garden.

SCH North East Corner
Image SCH South West corner

The space at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead will be in a sunny outside position between the wards and visitor car park. Both pet gardens will have a dedicated space to ensure the safety of children, families and animals.

By 2025, both redevelopment projects at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead will be complete, delivering two world-class children’s hospitals. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform kids’ health in NSW and beyond.

1 Smith, B. (2012) “The ‘pet effect’ Health related aspects of companion,” Australian Family Physician, 41(6), pp. 439–440. Available at: https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2012/june/the-pet-effect (Accessed: 2023).

Media enquiries to: 

Chelsea Groth 

Corporate Communications Specialist 

0432 250 099 

chelsea.groth@schf.org.au

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