A Student Superhero for Riley

When my son Ben, went through his first surgery, a few of my former students put together superhero gift bags for him and his brother. One of those students was Janaki Patel. I'd taught Janaki when she was a bright freshman in my Advanced Placement World History course, and she was about to graduate, in 2011, when she found out about Ben. A few months ago, Janaki contacted me and asked if she could adopt my family for Riley events. I told her we would be happy to be adopted and suggested that, now that she is a fully grown adult, she could call me "Chris." (She reacted to this suggestion, as all former students do, as if she'd never fathomed I had a first name.) I also asked if I might interview her for the blog, as she's representative of many of the young people at universities who are working to raise funds for Riley.

Janaki is currently the Chair of Family Relations for the Riley Development Committee for the IU Dance marathon, which means she reaches out to Riley families to attend fundraisers and events, culminating in the big Dance Marathon at IU in the Fall. Janaki says she decided to get involved because of her firsthand experience in seeing, "how much strain poor health can put on a family," and thinks the experience of working with Riley has helped her to become a better person.

The 2012 IUDM raised over $2 million dollars, but Janaki was not surprised, stating that "it was just a matter of time" because "everyone heard about it and Riley is such a great hospital." She wants to see next year be a bigger success and is most proud of the way in which her Riley Development committee worked together to make the marathon "great for the kids and families."

She expects to "keep a connection with Riley into the future and says that the hospital "...is such a big part of my life and it has taught me so much about myself and others. I hope to continue to keep in touch with these families and new ones..."

As Janaki's experience indicates, the Dance Marathons not only raise vital funds for sick kids, but they integrate young people into a culture where they see that they can use their talents in the service of others. Having had Janaki in class, it did not surprise me to hear that she's focused on becoming a doctor and thinks that her experience with Riley has made her consider a field where she can work with kids. I wonder if I will feel as awkward calling her "Dr. Patel" as she does calling me "Chris."

Dance Marathons are Riley's fastest-growing fundraising events. Click here learn how to start a Dance Marathon for Riley at your school.

Chris Edwards, Ed. D.

Chris Edwards, Ed.D, teaches AP World History teacher at Fishers High School, and is the author of several books including 'Teaching Genius: Redefining Education with Lessons from Science and Philosophy.' Chris donates the royalties from 'Teaching Genius' to Riley Children's Foundation in support of pediatric cancer research at Riley Hospital. Chris and his wife Beth live in New Palestine are the parents of two boys, Blake, and Ben, who is doing well after being treated at Riley for a cancerous brain tumor.

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