Heart transplant recipient gets chance to ride in Great Forest Park Balloon Race

Published: Sep. 17, 2022 at 10:27 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - A Tulsa, Oklahoma teen was given the chance to ride in a hot air balloon Saturday during the Great Forest Park Balloon Race.

St. Louis-based Purina offered Gavin Kuykendall the opportunity to ride in its balloon at Forest Park in St. Louis.

Kuykendall underwent a heart transplant at Children’s Hospital back in April. Purina installed a room for patients to play with dogs about a decade ago in Children’s Hospital, according to Purina spokespeople.

In that room, Kuykendall was able to play with his dog Archie, a golden doodle, before his operation earlier this year.

“He’s like our third son,” said Adam Kuykendall, Gavin’s father. “Purina has a room for kids to get a chance to reconnect with their animal right before a procedure or a major operation. Words can’t describe bringing a little piece of home back here since it was a long distance for us.”

“A lot of emotions,” Gavin told News 4.

“At Purina, we believe that people and pets are better together, especially in times of crisis,” Dan Koehler with Purina said.

Gavin wasn’t able to ride in the hot air balloon Saturday because of the windy weather. Several other balloons didn’t take off.