NEWS | September 24, 2020

Pandemic prompts local family to pay it forward

Facility dog program gets boost


When COVID-19 shut down schools and businesses in March, Jodi Martino scrambled to help her four kids adjust to remote learning. Albeit challenging, Martino could not help but think of what other kids were facing. Not just students, but pediatric patients hospitalized at UC Davis Children's Hospital.

In memory of son, Matteo, the Martino family donated to the UC Davis Children's Hospital facility dog fund. In memory of son, Matteo, the Martino family donated to the UC Davis Children's Hospital facility dog fund.

“Our son, Matteo, died unexpectedly in his sleep at our home, with no prior health issues," Martino said. "At the time, I was working in marketing at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, knee-deep in stories of children impacted by the child life and facility dog programs."

When the pandemic hit, Martino knew there was no more important time than now for the social and mental health support child life specialists and canine team members provide. The Martinos wanted to support sick children facing life-threatening health challenges and give them comfort, especially since policy restrictions mean they are isolated in their rooms.

That's when Jodi and her husband, Dan, turned to Matteo’s Dream Fund. Established in their son's memory more than a decade ago, thousands of dollars have been raised for children’s hospitals. 

"Our hope was to make their hospital stay a little less scary and more comfortable, as we were living the flip side of shock, disbelief and grief,” Jodi Martino said.

Now, with a bustling household and two loving canines, the family decided to make its final Dream Fund gift to the UC Davis Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department’s facility dog program. They recently delivered the donation to the child life team and its three resident dogs: Huggie, Paloma and Zeebee. 

“We wish we would have had a chance to fight whatever it was that took Matteo's life and work with the amazing child life specialists. But we never had that chance," Martino said. "This was our way of paying it forward." 

Canine Companions for Independence provides the facility dogs free of charge so the Martino family contribution will help the hospital provide for the facility dogs' care. The donation will help with the costs of medical visits, grooming, food, bedding and toys.  

UC Davis Children's Hospital's facility dog program is a popular one with patients and families and is always in need of contributions to keep the dogs fit and healthy. To give directly, click here

UC Davis Children's Hospital is the Sacramento region's only nationally ranked, comprehensive hospital providing care for infants, children, adolescents and young adults with primary, subspecialty and critical care. It includes the Central Valley's only pediatric emergency department and level I pediatric trauma center, which offers the highest level of care for its critically ill patients, as well as a level I children’s surgery center. The 129-bed children's hospital includes the state-of-the-art 49-bed neonatal and 24-bed pediatric intensive care and pediatric cardiac intensive care units. For more information, visit