Why I Give: Ellis Shetler

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Ellis Shetler with his family

Goshen, Indiana is a small town. The population is a bit over 33,000. One of its lifelong residents and Riley Society donor, Ellis Shetler, is a funeral director at the Yoder-Culp funeral home in Goshen. Ellis’ family, including his twin grandsons Owen and Evan, live there too. 

The day these two little boys came into this world on November 16, 2014, was the day Ellis was inspired to become a Riley Society donor. Evan was perfectly healthy; Owen was not: He was born with a heart defect, transposition of the great arteries. The anatomy of his heart was the opposite of a normal heart. He was immediately airlifted to Riley Hospital in Indianapolis. To overcome all of his challenges, Owen was put on ECMO – the highest form or life support – twice during his 75-day stay at Riley Hospital. 

It was during this time that Ellis had a front row seat to the inner workings of Riley, and how the hospital, staff and faculty wrap its arms around an entire family. 


“One thing that really surprised me was the Child Life specialists, and how they took care of the twins’ older brother Cayden who was 9 years old at the time,” says Ellis.  Child Life specialists often play games with siblings, take them to special events, and explain what is happening to their brother or sister who is hospitalized. “I was impressed, and surprised to learn that the services of Child Life are not a billable item. They are supported primarily by donors.” 

Not everyone has a personal connection to Riley Hospital like Ellis does. “Don’t worry whether or not it’s a good place to give. I am confident, from seeing it with my own eyes, that your money is doing what it should. Go with your own family for a visit. It’s amazing to see families walking halls of Riley Hospital, knowing that their lives will never be the same.”

Being a supporter of Riley Society is important to Ellis. “I saw that in my giving I was close to the Circle of Hope level, ($5,000), and thought, ‘I can do that.’ I aim to tithe. I promised the good Lord that if my money situation became a little easier, I would do my best to be generous.” 

Generosity, coupled with the incredible gratitude Ellis feels about his grandson not only surviving but thriving, makes donating to Riley Society is a perfect way for Ellis to give back.  


Riley Children’s Foundation will soon be announcing a new CEO. What would Ellis tell him or her if he had the chance? “I was impressed at the annual luncheon, (tickets to which are a benefit of joining Riley Society), that the outgoing CEO, Kevin O’Keefe, spoke fondly of all of the times he had interacted with the patients. So I’d tell the new CEO that practice  should continue. A big shot should be able to rub shoulders with the kids.” 

We’ll pass that on! 

Riley Blogger

The Riley Blog is written and/or edited by members of the Riley Children's Foundation Communications Staff.

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