Students celebrate James Whitcomb Riley's 166th Birthday

Second grade students from Mount Comfort Elementary School in Greenfield, Ind., the birthplace of James Whitcomb Riley, will take a field trip history lesson on Friday, October 2 to celebrate the Hoosier Poet’s 166th birthday (October 7, 1849). Mr. Riley himself, a.k.a. Chadwick Gillenwater, will make an appearance and share some of his poetry with the children. Gillenwater has been portraying Riley for nearly two years, and entertaining school children across the country for a decade.

Prior to the wreath laying, students will visit the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home in Indianapolis’ historic Lockerbie neighborhood (528 Lockerbie Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202). Their Indiana history lesson will continue at Mr. Riley’s monument in Crown Hill Cemetery, the highest point in Marion County and one of the most visited sites in the city.

Students will learn about how the famous Hoosier poet’s legacy remains alive today as the namesake of Riley Hospital for Children. The wreath laying ceremony, an annual tradition that dates back to the establishment of Riley Children’s Foundation in 1921, will take place at 11:15 a.m.

Riley, known as the Hoosier Poet, lived what is now the James Whitcomb Riley Museum home for 23 years. The students will step back to the beginning of the 20th century, walking through the country’s only late-Victorian preservation. The museum home includes authentic furnishings and décor including the poet’s writing desk, a portrait of his dog, Lockerbie, and his top hat and cane. It is easy to picture Mr. Riley poring over verses of one of his 1,044 published poems, or immersed in a favorite Charles Dickens’ story by gaslight. The two-story brick James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home was named a National Historic Landmark in 1962 and is open to the public.

Mount Comfort Elementary School has raised $170,000 since 1988 for Riley Hospital for Children through the Kids Caring & Sharing program ( The school supported this program with activities including a walk-a-thon and a dress-up day. New this year was Disney day, where students and staff all dressed up as Disney characters.

Kids Caring & Sharing teaches children the values of philanthropy at a young age. Every year Mount Comfort Elementary school has participated they’ve raised more than $1 per enrolled student, earning them Miracle School status.

WHO:    Second grade students from Mount Comfort Elementary School

WHAT:    Wreath Laying Ceremony to honor James Whitcomb Riley’s 166th birthday and legacy

WHEN:    Friday, October 2, 2015; 11:15 a.m.


Crown Hill Cemetery
James Whitcomb Riley’s Monument
700 West 38th Street
Indianapolis, Indiana  46208
About Riley Children’s Foundation

Riley Children’s Foundation supports Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, Camp Riley and the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home. As Indiana’s only comprehensive hospital dedicated exclusively to the care of children, Riley Hospital has provided compassionate care, support and comfort to children and their families since 1924. Each year children from all 92 Indiana counties turn to Riley Hospital and its regional clinics throughout the state more than 300,000 times. Riley Hospital’s partnership with Indiana University Health and its strong affiliation with the Indiana University School of Medicine make Riley Hospital the leader in pediatric care in the state and the region. For more information, visit

Browse More News