Alexis Allen, an outgoing, optimistic 15-year-old from Noblesville, Ind., was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord. The spina bifida led to hydrocephalus, an accumulation of fluid in and around the brain, and paralysis from the waist down. Alexis has already had 11 major surgeries at Riley Hospital for Children.
“It is nice to have Riley Hospital so close to home,” said Angela Allen, Alexis’ mother. “We have a special regard for the staff and what they have provided for Alexis.”
Alexis utilizes a wheelchair. While the disability prevents her from doing things as easily as other children, Alexis and her family always find the silver lining. The eighth grader at Noblesville Middle School maintains a great attitude and is especially outgoing.
“Alexis is a social butterfly,” said Shay Dawson, director of therapeutic recreation at Bradford Woods. “People do not see her physical disability because she is always smiling and enjoying life.”
Dawson, who directs summer sessions for Camp Riley, agreed with the selection of Alexis as a Riley Champion.
“She is a good leader and an eloquent speaker for being 14 years old. When it comes to a challenge, she puts her nose to the grindstone and just gets it done,” said Dawson. “She has a very positive impact on other campers.”
These qualities explain why she was chosen to speak on camera when WXIN-TV (Fox 59 Indianapolis), came to Camp Riley to showcase the importance of the facility for children with physical disabilities.
“I don’t know what I would do without Camp Riley,” reflected Alexis. “It has made me more independent. It also provides me the opportunity to feel normal by helping other kids.”
Alexis has attended Camp Riley since she was 8 and has plans to attend even beyond the age limit of 18. Someday she hopes to become a counselor and have Shay’s job. Shay is certain Alexis can achieve it with hard work.
Her attitude helps her shine in athletics as well. Through the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana (RHI), Alexis participates in wheelchair basketball, soccer, tennis and adaptive water skiing. Her basketball team, known as the Mini Pacers, practices every Saturday from September through March and competes in tournaments in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.
Alexis has spoken on behalf of Riley Children’s Foundation at several fundraising events, including the Purdue University Dance Marathon. Her former principal at Stony Creek Elementary School, Bob McDaniel, also recruited her to help represent Kids Caring & Sharing (KCS) at the Indiana Association of School Principals Conference in 2006. KCS is a statewide school fundraising program that annually raises more than $680,000 for Riley Hospital.
“We are very proud of Alexis,” added Angela. “Her personality and confidence have blossomed.”
A champion from an early age, Alexis has now officially received the honor.