My Song For Riley




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Sean Francis

John Muir, the famous Scottish-born naturalist and father of our national park system once said that going to the mountains is going home. Muir was speaking to nature’s power to cleanse our souls and ease our minds. As an avid hiker and backpacker, I wholeheartedly agree with his sentiment. But there’s another home away from home that provides me the same kind of comfort and reassurance: Jagathon. 

IUPUI’s Dance Marathon conjures up so many warm and fuzzy feelings for me, because it combines three of the most important parts of my life: Riley Hospital for Children is where I was treated as a teenager for leukemia; IUPUI is where I went to college and met my wife; and Jagathon is an event my wife helped organize during all four of her years at IUPUI, including serving as the event’s co-chair during her senior year. Returning to Jagathon felt like coming home and finding that everything is just how you left it, except better. In less than a decade, Jagathon has gone from raising about $14,000 to more than half a million dollars for the kids!

I was returning to Jagathon as a Riley-kid-turned-adult, and one that had just recently lost a mother to the same disease (cancer) that nearly took my life almost two decades ago. Instead of attending as a student, I was going as a performer to play a song I wrote about my experience at Riley Hospital. With “Midnight Kids” I want to capture a moment in time that stands out from my own experience: spending the night at Riley Hospital. 

During the day, procedures, visitors and the normal hustle and bustle of staff can make staying there feel almost normal. But when the sun sets, it gets very quiet and lonely. Those times were always some of the hardest for me. But my parents would stay up with me watching movies, playing board games and spending the night on fold-out chairs so that I didn’t have to face those nights alone. That’s what “Midnight Kids” is about: the quiet time when all the noise and confusion of life in the hospital is paused. 

Performing the song at Jagathon in front of hundreds of students, faculty and Riley families was an amazing experience because it reaffirmed what’s really important: the families. Yes, we’re staying up for 15 hours so that we can raise money for Riley Hospital. But ultimately, we’re raising money for Riley Hospital so that parents and their children can have more time together. We’re doing it so that someday those nights staying up late and watching movies together can be shared in the home, rather than in the hospital. Until that day, we’ll keep staying up late for the kids and their families.

Click here to watch Sean's performance of "Midnight Kids." 


Sean Francis

Sean Francis is a Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter and a former Riley Hospital cancer patient. He is currently recording his debut single, "Midnight Kids," which is due to be released in early 2018. The song is about his experience battling cancer as a teenager, and the long nights spent in Riley Hospital with his parents.


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