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Dunkin’ Iced Coffee Day benefits Children’s Hospital of Orange County

Janessa Vandenberge, a CHOC certified dog handler, stands with black Labrador Odessa.
Janessa Vandenberge, a CHOC certified dog handler, stands with black Labrador Odessa, during the Dunkin’ Iced Coffee Day at the location in Santa Ana on Wednesday. Each iced coffee sold at Dunkin’ locations throughout California will be donating to the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation, including Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC).
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

At Dunkin’ Donuts in Santa Ana, national Iced Coffee Day may have gone to the dogs.

Children’s Hospital of Orange County resident therapy dog, Odessa, made a special appearance at the 17th Street shop on May 25 to celebrate and to promote the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation, which brings joy to kids at local hospitals.

“Every dollar from an iced coffee that you buy goes towards Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation, which was the first sponsor of our resident dog therapy program at CHOC,” said Dana Ransons, associate director of Foundation Relations & Institutional Initiatives for CHOC.

Dunkin’ franchisees throughout Orange County participated in the fundraising event, with 100 percent of funds raised granted locally to children’s hospitals respective to their communities.

The Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation was founded by the coffee and donut company in 2006 and has since awarded more than $37 million to national and local nonprofits.

Franchisee and foundation board member Parag Patel joined Odessa outside Dunkin’ amid pink and orange balloons.

Janessa Vandenberge, CHOC dog handler, black Labrador Odessa and Dunkin' franchise owner Parag Patel.
Janessa Vandenberge, a CHOC certified dog handler, stands with black Labrador Odessa and franchise owner Parag Patel during the Dunkin’ Iced Coffee Day at the location in Santa Ana on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“I am proud to be one of the board members of the foundation,” said Patel. “We have done incredible work to bring joy to kids battling illness.”

At midmorning, the fundraiser seemed to be going well.

“We have seen an amazing response,” Patel said. “A lot of cars going through the drive-through and a ton of customers that don’t normally order an iced coffee are ordering it.”

Grants from the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation can fund year-round programs like Dunkin’ Connecting Joy, which brings gaming experiences to pediatric patients, and the Teen Prom Program, which helps hospitals host prom-like events for patients whose illness or treatment plan prevents them from attending their high school prom.

Grants can also fund resident dog-therapy programs, which place highly trained in-residence therapy dogs like Odessa in hospitals to add some joy to the daily life of kids in treatment.

“We got our first dog, Lois, last year and she was followed quickly by Odessa,” said Ransons. “Lois serves all of our hospital floors … Odessa is dedicated to just to our mental health in-patient unit. Between the two of them, they see about 130 visits each month, and it is continuing to ramp up.”

Odessa, a black Labrador and Golden Retriever mix, greeted customers on their morning coffee runs with a wagging tail.

Fresh donuts on display during the Dunkin' Iced Coffee Day at the location in Santa Ana.
Fresh donuts on display during the Dunkin’ Iced Coffee Day at the location in Santa Ana on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Lois and Odessa are both specially trained as service dogs and help patients in a number of ways, such as offering a calming presence and normalizing the hospital environment.

“Their job at CHOC is to provide a lot of love and snuggles to our patients,” said Janessa Vanden Berge, Child Life resident dog handler at CHOC. “But also we work with our treatment team to really help our patients work towards their goals.”

Vanden Berge said the pups presence can be a powerful motivator for children.

“Just simply by bringing a dog into a room, the total affect changes of these children,” said Vanden Berge. “You see a lot of smiles and their mood may go from really sad and in pain to smiling and willing to do anything.”

Black Labrador Odessa on Dunkin' Iced Coffee Day in Santa Ana.
Black Labrador Odessa, a CHOC resident dog, visits the Dunkin’ Iced Coffee Day at the Santa Ana location.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The CHOC team expressed its gratitude to Dunkin’ for the event that can help the hospital continue its dog therapy program.

“We are so thankful to Dunkin’ Donuts for having faith in the program and in CHOC,” said Ransons.

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