A Big Party For The Kids (Like Me)
When you walk in to IUDM, you see all the college kids getting ready to stay up for 36 hours. It just kind of blows your mind how many kids put so much into it. I am an 11-year-old Riley kid, and I have been to IUDM nine times. You get to do all kinds of fun activities like arts and crafts, face painting, races, throwing a football, and color wars contests with the college kids. Students wearing tie-dyed outfits go around teaching everyone a huge dance to keep their minds off how hard it is to stay standing for so long. It’s a big party to raise money for Riley.
At the beginning of IUDM, all of the Riley kids and their families come up on the stage. A bunch of the students chant F-T-K! (For The Kids!). It gets really loud, and it shows how much dedication they put into it.
If you’re a Riley Kid you can go on stage and share your Riley story. At first, you’re kind of nervous because there are a bunch of people looking at you, but once you get going, it’s fun. When I walked up on stage last fall, they all started cheering. Sometimes they would chant my name. They cheer loud for all the kids because of everything we can do, even though we have been through a lot.
On stage I talked about how I was born with critical aortic stenosis and rushed by ambulance to Riley, which is two hours away from my hometown of Fort Wayne. My aorta was 10 times too narrow –doctors said it was incompatible with life. I needed a new valve called a Contegra conduit, and a series of three open-heart surgeries with Dr. Mark Turrentine. I had the first operation when I was only 9 days old, and my heart was the size of a walnut. I had the next operation when I was 14 months old, and the third one when I was 3.
Today, my heart is doing great. I can play baseball and I have no restrictions. I still go to checkups at Riley with my cardiologist, Dr. Anne Farrell. I never feel nervous. Everyone is so nice. The doctors don’t just talk to your parents— they talk to the kids, and ask me things like, “What does it feel like to you?”
I want to keep going back to IUDM because I want to keep inspiring the college kids. The students are doing something for a really good cause. It’s really cool to see how generous they are to do all this for me and the other Riley Kids. They do so much for Riley, not because they have to, but because they want to.
At IUDM, you can tell it’s not all about them. Everything the students do is For The Kids—kids like me.
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