Riley Annual Luncheon: My Unforgettable Day

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Painting has helped Abbie relieve stress during her challenging medical journey

The day of the Riley Annual Luncheon was a day that I had anticipated since September, when I learned that I had been nominated by our friend and chosen as a 2015 Riley Champion. When my mom picked me up from school that day, I noticed something different in her voice. Then she handed me a small cake that said “Riley Champion!” I was thrilled, and I just knew at that moment we needed to find my mentor, Nancy Webster, at University High School.

While celebrating my accomplishments and feeling appreciative for Riley Hospital, I also realized how protective I’ve been about sharing my life story, which has very much included Riley Hospital for 17 years. Nobody wants to be different, and while I was growing up, some kids made me feel excluded for my medical differences. I have become more outgoing in the past year because of University High School. I told myself it was time to step outside of my comfort zone. This was actually happening, and I would be able to help others by sharing my story.

I’ve never been embarrassed of my life, and I’ve always accepted who I am. I know I’m different because of my Riley journey. There are not a lot of kids my age and even adults who appreciate that every day is a gift. Being selected and celebrated as a Riley Champion has certainly made me feel special.

When the day of the Riley Annual Luncheon finally came on November 21, I was so ready for everything to begin, yet I knew what a long road it took to get here. I felt so honored to be able to attend, and to be recognized by Riley Children’s Foundation “just for being myself.” The luncheon was an exceptional day and it kept getting better as all the guests arrived. I saw my friends from school who are also on our Dance Marathon Committee. It was exciting to see doctors and nurses attending in my honor. My family was there in support of all that my mind and body have survived. As I was walking up onto the stage, I felt a little nervous, of course. Speaking in front of that many people (about 1,400!) is a little intimidating, but seeing my friends in the audience comforted me.

We are so blessed to have Riley Hospital. I feel privileged to share my stories which I hope will inspire you to support Riley Children’s Foundation. Being recognized at the luncheon inspired me to share how Riley saved my life! I look forward to serving as a 2015 Riley Champion. I hope I’m able to make a difference for all of the kids who need Riley Hospital for Children.

Watch the video from the 2014 Riley Annual Luncheon by clicking here.

Abbie Laker, 2015 Riley Champion

Abbie Laker of Zionsville, Ind., is a junior at University High School and one of the 2015 Riley Champions. She has been treated by many Riley specialists since birth due to life-threatening kidney problems that affected her lungs, severe reflux and scoliosis. In 2003, at age 5, Abbie received her mother’s kidney in a transplant operation at Riley. Abbie is passionate about setting an example for others to be kind and inclusive. A talented painter, Abbie has served as a Riley Holiday Card artist. She also supports the hospital through the Riley Dance Marathon at her school.

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