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Tripawd Heroes Connect with Youth and Pet Cancer Survivors

A cancer diagnosis is devastating news, but there are opportunities to help you turn it into a positive, life-changing event.

Youth and Pet Survivors Program

For example, Joanie Knorpp from Colorado is involved with YAPS: Youth and Pet Survivors, a pen pal program that matches pediatric oncology patients with dogs and cats who have survived cancer or other serious medical conditions.

Joanie is mom to Spirit Gaby, a 10 year-old Golden Shepard diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in October 2011.

“At that time I became addicted to Tripawds gathering as much info as I could about this crazy roller coaster ride,” says Joanie. “I came across the YAPS story of Delaney and Brusier, learned about the program and saw that it was out of Children’s Hospital in Denver which is where I live.

I thought that would be the perfect program for Gaby and I to get involved with as I have been involved with a camp for kids with cancer for 10 years and now I had a dog with cancer.

I was so excited for Gaby to be a pen pal and to put a smile a on child’s face but unfortunately, her cancer returned and she crossed over to the Rainbow Bridge on February 7 of this year. But I have become involved with the program as I believe that animal therapy is so important for these awesome kids.”

Like Joanie and Bruiser’s pack, we believe that Tripawds members touched by cancer can find lots of joy in being involved with a program like YAPS.

Read on to find out how you and your Tripawd hero can carry on Gaby and Bruno’s legacies, and help brighten the lives of children battling devastating disease:

What Is YAPS?

The Youth and Pet Survivors Program (YAPS©) is a pen pal program that matches pediatric oncology patients with dogs and cats who have survived cancer or other serious medical conditions. Children and pets (via their owners) establish relationships and communicate through letter writing.

This allows children the unique opportunity to share feelings about having cancer with a safe, unconditionally loving animal. YAPS child participants report enhanced well-being; YAPS pet owners report a sense of contribution knowing that their pet’s illness can make a difference in a child’s life.

The YAPS Program hosts events which allow pen pals to meet face to face. The program has met with tremendous success, with over one hundred child and animal families participating in YAPS since it began in 2001.

Based at Children’s Hospital Colorado Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, YAPS collaborates with area veterinary hospitals, including CSU’s Animal Cancer Center and the Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado.

The mission of YAPS is to facilitate healing, fun, and creative relationships between animals and humans by connecting children with cancer to animal cancer survivors.

The vision for YAPS is to make these unique pen pal relationships available around the globe.

Benefits of YAPS

Participants are saying:

“I feel like I am not alone.”

“It gives me hope. If my dog pen pal can do it, I can do it too.”

“My dog pen pal always listens. He gets me.”

“It has brought me closer to my brother, because he has a dog pen pal too, and it’s an experience we can share.”

“I know my dog pen pal won’t judge me.”


Pet owners are saying:

“The YAPS program is perhaps the most rewarding thing I have ever been a part of.

“My dog writes letters to a child about treatment, feelings about having cancer and the activities he participates in… it adds one more dimension to my dog’s life.”

Parents are saying:

“It’s fun for her, a great distraction. It brings awareness of how cancer affects the animal world.”

“She is always so happy to get a letter from her dog pen pal, it really cheers her up.”

Get Involved with  YAPS

To find out how you can bring hoppiness into the life of a pediatric cancer patient, visit the YAPS website and YAPS Facebook page today.

And of course, your tax-deductible donations to YAPS are also greatly appreciated.



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