Meet Indiana's New CMN Champion: "We are excited and honored."




We are very excited and honored that our daughter Riley has been selected as the 2014 Children’s Miracle Network Champion for Indiana. We have come to know so many families in our twelve years as a Riley family, and it means so much to know that Riley will be representing them in spirit throughout the year.

Dance Marathon Journey

Riley was about 3 years old when we first started searching for a way to give back to the hospital that had given so much to us. We got in touch with Riley Children’s Foundation and asked how we could help.
We attended our first dance marathon in the Spring of 2006, I had no idea the impact that it would have on our lives. It was at Bloomington South High School and Riley had

Riley at IU Dance Marathon

just turned 4 years old. I had thought, at the time, that I had healed from the experience of her premature birth. However, as I shared her story on stage that first time, I realized that was not the case. Each hug or comment after the speech did so much to bring comfort to me. I watched her play with the high school and college students who had given freely of their time, energy and resources to raise money for kids they had never met.

DM Milestones and Memories

And now, here we are eight years and 139 dance marathons later. The Riley dance marathon program in Indiana has grown so much since we first started. We were there when both IU and Purdue broke the million dollar mark, and when Bloomington South topped $100,000. We saw Avon High School make national news this year with their dance marathon lip dub. We have watched new schools come on board with exciting ideas and a passion to help others.

Most importantly, we have watched as dance marathon became a family. The college marathons are like a family reunion when all of the alumni and other Riley families get together.

From Little Girl to Advocate

It has been so much fun to watch my daughter Riley grow right along with the program.  We were at Carmel High School in 2011, I think, when she decided it was time to give her own speech. She also started asking if she could go canning with the students at special events to help raise money. She went from a little girl who needed to be entertained to a young lady who wanted to help.

Then last year, she decided that it was time for her to start learning the other side of dance marathon so that by the time she gets to high school, she’ll be ready to start her own. She signed up as a dancer at seven different college marathons (IU, Purdue, UIndy, Butler, Depauw, IUPUI and Ball State) and by canning, selling loom bracelets and through online fundraising, she raised a little more than $2,000 for the kids. She has yet to decide which college she will call home in 2020, but you can bet that their dance marathon program will play a large part in her choice.

Gratitude Inspires Passion

We owe Riley’s life to her medical team. We know without a doubt that without their care and dedication, our outcome could have been far different. And we also know that without extra donor funding for research, education and hospital services, Riley and kids all across Indiana would not be given the healthcare that they deserve.

That’s why we’re so passionate about dance marathons for Riley Hospital. They are a way for us to join with students from all kinds of interests and backgrounds to raise money, educate others and help sick kids and their families.

We can’t wait for our new CMN Champion to share her story with even more people, and tell them how grateful we are to Riley Hospital for Children.


Julie Lesh, Riley Parent

Julie is the mother of Riley Lesh, a former Riley NICU patient and 2014 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Champion for Indiana.The family has participated in more than 130 Riley Dance Marathons.


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