My Year as a Riley Champion
Some of my favorite experiences as a Riley Champion were when we got to go to a Colts Game and a Pacers game. At the Colts Game last fall (during our Riley Champions Welcome Weekend) we got recognized in the end zone as our stories were told by the stadium announcer. Then as we tried to keep warm (it was cold with the wind, and I wanted a coat!) we waited for the Kids Coin Toss. We hovered around massive looking football players and tried to get a look at the coin toss. I had a great time even with the cold. After the freezing time on the field we went up to watch the game from suites.
The Pacers game was warmer than the Colts game, and it was a great time too. First we got to ride up these elevators (that I thought were cool) and we headed to the floor. We sat down in the Pacer bench seats and watched them warm up. It was so cool, and I especially remember one of the players’ massive shoe size. Then after warm up we headed to center court and we got a signed Pacer mini basketball by a player. We had pictures taken, and headed back up to our suite and watched the game. (I ate a slice of cheesecake as big as my face from the dessert cart!)
Being a Riley Champion has shown me how lucky I am. I had my 16-hour brain surgery, and then got to go home three days later with no physical therapy. Some of my other Riley Champion friends still have to go to Riley regularly.
I have really enjoyed getting to know the other Riley Champions: Dee, Rex, Abbie, Rosie, Austin, Emma, and Camille. Camille and I are both from the Northeastern part of Indiana. We found out we were Riley Champions together at a Riley event in Fort Wayne, and I have always enjoyed spending time with Camille.
I learned more about Rex when we stayed at a hotel during our Riley Champions Welcome Weekend. I had breakfast with Rex's family I learned that Rex is a great wrestler. Rosie and Abbie are the sweetest people ever, and they are so fun to be around. Austin, in my opinion has a great taste of sports teams, as we both like Notre Dame (even though he is by far the bigger fan.) And Dee is another athlete in our group, and had a really cool hair cut for the Pacers game, that included the Pacers logo. Emma is so sweet just like Rosie and Abbie, and is the founder of Emma's Art Kart. This is a kart that goes around and gives little art projects to Riley patients. Her kart even got around to me as I was in the ICU.
I plan to stay involved with Riley in the future. I assembled “Team T-Rex,” which is a team of my friends and family that run or walk in the Fort Wayne Run for Riley 5K. I think that for our busy family and friends an event like Run for Riley is a way everyone can help Riley. Events in your community are a great way to stay involved and a way to help Riley.
Another way I plan to stay involved with Riley is within my school district. I have challenged all of Northern Wells Community Schools—two elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school— to become Riley Kids Caring and Sharing schools. They have been doing this with dress-up days, dances, other events, and even a Dance Marathon, to raise money for Riley. Norwell High School, my future high school, is putting together their first ever Riley Dance Marathon. They plan to dance for four hours without sitting down; moving the whole time. I am going to be there to participate, share my story, help them raise money, and raise awareness about Riley Hospital for Children. Someday, I would like to become a Dance Marathon student leader.
Being a Riley Champion has really opened my eyes to see how some kids have to carry on lifelong health battles. This experience has given me a "fuel" to go and raise money for Riley, and to challenge others to get behind this great cause.
To nominate an exceptional Riley kid (ages 8-18) to be considered for the 2016 Riley Champions program, click here.
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