Riley Children's Foundation Celebrates 100 Years

RCF 100 Years full size image 04.06.2021

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children."
-- Nelson Mandela

If it’s true that we can be judged by our commitment to kids, then in my mind, Indiana cemented its status as one of our nation’s finest states precisely 100 years ago this week.

On April 9, 1921, a group of Hoosiers came together to establish what we now call Riley Children’s Foundation. Their goal was ambitious: Raise enough money to open a hospital to care for even the sickest children in Indiana.

The people of the state responded with unbridled enthusiasm.

Notable business leaders and friends of James Whitcomb Riley – the legendary Hoosier poet after whom the hospital would be named – made sizable donations. Service organizations like the Kiwanis and Rotary rallied their members to the cause. School kids chipped in nickels and dimes.

All told, more than 44,000 individual donors from all corners of the state donated with one mission in mind: to help sick children in their time of need.

Riley Hospital for Children was officially dedicated on October 7, 1924 – Mr. Riley’s birthday. And on November 19 of that year, 11-year-old Mark Noble of Decatur, Indiana, became the first patient admitted, for treatment of polio.

In the years since, Indiana’s support of our children’s hospital has never wavered. Thanks to our generous donors, Riley has expanded in size and scope, made important discoveries that advanced children’s health, and continued to bring the most promising pediatric care to Indiana with a long line of firsts:

•    Indiana’s first pediatric open heart procedure
•    Indiana’s first and only pediatric burn unit
•    Indiana’s first neonatal intensive care unit
•    The first hospital in Indiana to provide outpatient surgical care for children
•    Indiana’s first pediatric liver transplant
•    Indiana’s first infant and newborn heart transplants

The list goes on and on.

Today, children and families turn to Riley more than 300,000 times each year, for everything from broken bones to cancer. It is nationally ranked in 10 out of 10 pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report. And the Riley-affiliated research program at Indiana University School of Medicine is among the top 10 in the nation.

None of this would have been possible without the selflessness of Indiana citizens. Last year – despite a global pandemic – nearly 70,000 donors continued to give so children can thrive.

Help Riley Kids Thrive

Just as they did 100 years ago, supporters come from all backgrounds: school kids chipping in their allowance money through our Kids Caring & Sharing program; high school and college students uniting through Dance Marathons; businesses collecting donations at cash registers; grateful families hosting 5K runs, golf outings and lemonade stands; and caring citizens investing in Riley’s future through their individual giving.

Every dollar donated continues to have a tremendous impact.

Donations are supporting Riley’s new Maternity Tower – scheduled to open this fall. They fund family support programs that help families navigate the challenges and stresses of having a sick child. And they equip researchers with the resources to press on in the search for new treatments and cures for devastating diseases like cancer, diabetes, asthma and congenital heart defects.

The progress we’ve seen at Riley over the past century is truly astounding. And the promise of the next century is even greater – thanks to every single person who gives so kids have the chance to heal and be healthy.

Liz Elkas, President and CEO, Riley Children's Foundation

I am an advocate for children and the President and CEO of Riley Children's Foundation.

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