They say a dog is man’s best friend—and it seems the same goes for kids. “There’s just that bond between kids and dogs, and that unconditional love you see. When you see a little puppy lying in a child’s lap, it’s really special. And kids just light up when they get to see their own dog,” says Lauri Tanner, president and CEO of Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.

That bond between kids and dogs sparked the hospital’s junior board to launch the fundraiser, Kids Dog Walk. Through the years, the event has grown to hundreds of attendees, with Tanner, her staff and patients, as well as community participants, all walking their dogs together for a good cause. “It’s really fun and high-energy,” she says.

This year’s walk will include the first-ever 5K Fun Run, as well as a carnival setting, complete with a silent auction, raffle, and contests, from a dog-owner look-alike contest to the best-dressed dog. Another new highlight will be the agility feats of local trainer John Casey’s canines. Tanner’s Australian Shepherds also will be on hand—6-year-old Jack, and 18-month-old puppy, Remy. And the Animal Protective Association will bring dogs for young patients to walk. Participants can choose between the Challenge Walk, a quarter-mile around the facility’s grounds, or the 5K Fun Run, which will snake through the neighborhood behind the hospital.

Organizers hope to draw 500 attendees and raise $10,000. Funds will benefit Ranken Jordan’s ‘care beyond the bedside’ model, which gives young patients the support they need to get out of bed and interact in the hospital’s indoor and outdoor play spaces. The facility also continues to raise funds for its upcoming expansion. The project is in the last phase of planning, with construction set to begin in the late fall of 2016. The expansion will almost double the inpatient capacity to 60 beds.

It takes $1.5 million to keep Ranken Jordan running each year, Tanner notes, and the Kids Dog Walk is just one of many fundraisers that support the hospital’s kids, who are on the road to recovery from serious illnesses or accidents. “What I love about this event is the fact that it is here on the grounds, and the kids get to participate. All of our events are for and about the kids, but I love this one the most because it’s really kids helping kids.” The fundraiser is hosted by the hospital’s junior board, which is made up of former patients, and board and staff members’ kids. “It’s a great opportunity for kids to grow and learn, and make them appreciate what they have,” Tanner says. “The members of our first junior board are mostly in college now, and [their experience here] influenced them to go into medicine, from physical therapy to nursing.” Some kids have been involved with the board since it began 12 years ago. “They continue to give back, and that’s pretty amazing.”

ON THE COVER

Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital will host its annual Kids Dog Walk and 5K Fun Run on Sat., Sept. 12. Event registration opens at 8:30 a.m., the Fun Run begins at 9:15 a.m. and the Walk starts at 9:45 a.m. Pictured: Ranken Jordan patient Drew Hessler (center), with his dad, Chuck Hessler, chief executive officer Lauri Tanner and her dogs, and junior board members Megan Present, Rohit Chouhan and Brittney Usoroh. To walk with us, call 314-872-6400 or visit rankenjordan.org.