Why I Give: Dave and Valli Dietz

Hayden Dietz
Hayden Dietz, Fort Wayne

Every Riley supporter has a story of what drew them to the cause. But Dave and Valli Dietz have three.

Decades ago, Dave Dietz became a “Riley Kid” because of an eye condition. Years later, he and his wife Valli were blown away by their experience at the Indiana University Dance Marathon where their youngest son was volunteering. IUDM convinced them to support Riley, but the Fort Wayne couple had no idea that they would soon be given a third reason.

In 2007, Dave and Valli’s infant grandson, Hayden, was diagnosed with a heart condition called mitrovalve regurgitation. Now, at age 6, Hayden has had three open-heart surgeries at Riley, including a valve replacement Dr. Mark Turrentine performed this fall. “He is one of our favorite people,” says Dave of the renowned Riley heart surgeon.

Dr. Turrentine joined the couple during a recent tour of the new Riley Heart Center, which is scheduled to open early in 2014 in the Simon Family Tower. With Hayden’s help, the couple selected a patient room that will be named for him. Their generous personal gift in support of cardiology research at Riley was combined with a gift that Dave’s employer, Do it Best Hardware, made to Riley to celebrate his retirement in 2012. “It’s about hopefully providing resources to great people to help them continue to progress,” explains Dave.  “Dr. Turrentine says what he’s doing today isn’t what he learned in medical school. The procedures they use have all been developed over time.”

Valli now serves on the Northeast Indiana Riley Regional Committee. She says to convince other people from across the state to support Riley she simply pulls out Hayden’s picture. “I tell them that if it wasn’t for Riley, Hayden wouldn’t be here,” explains Valli. “Years ago, Dr. Turrentine says they would have just sent him home. They couldn’t have done anything. Now, there’s nothing they won’t try.”

The couple has moved to Lake Tippecanoe, where they plan to continue spreading awareness about Riley’s impact on children all across Indiana and beyond. “To me, that’s the be all and end all,” says Valli. “We still have Hayden.”

Browse More Stories