DENVER (CBS4) – It is an unusual trio; prisoners, pups and young patients. But a nonprofit that helps all three is going strong.
Since 2010, The Stink Bug Project has been giving the gift of canine companionship to children with serious medical conditions. Recently, the program made its hundredth match.
The nonprofit was started by a 9 year old with a brain tumor. It is fitting that the hundredth child to benefit from her program is also a girl diagnosed with cancer at age 9.
CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh met Bella Fougner and her furry bundle of fun, her dog named Lovey.
“Because she just loves to love on people,” said Bella.
Bella got the little dog when the 4th grader was in desperate need of comfort.
“I was getting ready for a shower, and I saw this huge bump so I was like what’s this,” Bella explained.
It was cancer; Hodgkin’s lymphoma. What followed was months of treatment including 81 days of chemotherapy.
“I mean it’s throwing up and pain and stress and headaches. And it’s hot and cold, hot and cold. It’s really hard,” said Bella, now age 10.
“There was nothing I could do. I tried and tried so many things and couldn’t figure out how to bring her smile back,” said Val Lowery, Bella’s mother.
Then Lowery learned about The Stink Bug Project.
In 2008, Allison Winn, another 9-year-old girl with cancer, got a puppy trained by inmates in a program at Colorado prisons.
“I just thought it would be fun to give dogs to other kids to make them feel better,” Winn told Walsh in June 2018.
Ten years after The Stink Bug Project started, Bella’s was the hundredth match. Lovey was a breath of fresh air.
“I laughed more, and I smiled more, and I was more happy,” said Bella.
“Her spark came back,” said Lowery.
Lovey is a Shorkie, a Shih Tzu-Yorkie mix. Bella can’t imagine life without her. She is more than just a best friend, she is family.
The Stink Bug Project is now a program of Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation.