Heart transplant recipient lucky enough to compete in Great Forest Park Balloon Race

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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) — A teenager from Tulsa, Oklahoma had the chance to ride in a hot air balloon on Saturday during the Great Forest Park Balloon Race.

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

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

In this piece, Kuykendall got to play with his dog Archie, a golden doodle, before his surgery earlier this year.

“He’s like our third son,” said Adam Kuykendall, Gavin’s father. “Purina has a room for kids to have a chance to reconnect with their pet right before a major procedure or operation. Words cannot describe bringing a little piece of home back here as 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,” said Dan Koehler of Purina.

Gavin was unable to ride the hot air balloon on Saturday due to windy weather. Several other balloons did not take off.

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