Riley on Parade
Indiana's second largest city held it's biggest ever parade recently during the annual Fort Wayne Three River's Festival. The parade included 177 units and each proudly marched, rode or wobbled its way through the downtown streets.
And frankly, I didn't get to see it. But I was smack dab in the middle of it. Our family had the privilege of participating in the Riley Hospital for Children unit. Decked out in red shirts and of course wagons, we Riley families walked and rode together with pride. And even though it's not the first year I've been in the parade with the Riley unit, the crowd response still gets me every time. As we roll past the sea of people sitting on curbs and lawn chairs or standing with little ones on their hips, they smile. Then they wave at our Riley children and without fail someone starts to clap. And as we pass each new city block and see new sets of eyes taking us in I hear the clapping and cheering over and over as we proceed down the route. And the clapping gets me every time!
I get a lump in my throat because I know why they are clapping. It's not because the big decorated wagon filled with Riley families and being pulled by a tractor is cute. And though us Riley families are a good looking crew I'm pretty sure they don't clap because we've coordinated our outfits and tied bouncing red balloons on our strollers.
They clap because they know Riley kids are special. The Riley kids in those strollers and on that wagon are unique, brave and thankful for each day. These kids have had rain on their parades in the form of cancer, injury, disease and more. But yet as they move through life and the parade route they are smiling and waving. My son gave thumbs up to many people who returned the gesture. I saw one man raise his Styrofoam cup in salute.
And though us Riley families never signed up to be just that... a Riley family, that is the route we've been given. And so with hope and support from those on the sidelines we march on!
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