Rackets for Riley—a July 2014 tennis tournament that involved the entire Warsaw, Indiana, community in raising funds for the Riley Children’s Foundation—was the brainchild of 17-year-old Camille Kerlin. Camille came up with the idea, made flyers, wrote to area businesses and even designed the tournament T-shirts. “It was tons and tons of work, but it was really fun,” she says. “And a lot bigger success that I was secretly hoping it would be.”
The tournament was not only a fundraiser; it was also a celebration of Camille’s lifelong relationship with Riley Hospital. She was born in 1997 with what her parents Rick and Diane call “a double whammy.” Camille arrived at just 29 weeks, a 2-pound preemie with three congenital heart anomalies. She was given a 5 percent chance of survival.
After six weeks in the Riley NICU, Camille had her first surgery. Under the care of pediatric cardiologist Anne Farrell, M.D., and surgeon Mark Turrentine, M.D., she has had three open-heart surgeries since and has also been hospitalized twice due to heart infections.
In spite of her uphill battle, the senior honor student at Warsaw High School has compiled a staggering list of activities to submit with her college applications. Among them, she is president of the community service Octagon Club, a varsity tennis player and an accomplished photographer, pianist and dancer.
“We call her the ‘Energizer bunny,’” Diane says. “She jumps out of bed and never slows down. One of the things a lot of people have said over the years is that she lives each day like it’s a gift.”
Camille sees Dr. Farrell regularly, and the artificial conduits that Dr. Turrentine used to replace her pulmonary artery when she was 2, 7, and 13 will require replacement again in the future.
But she doesn’t feel limited in the least. “You can’t really worry about it a lot,” Camille says matter-of-factly.
Rick admires his daughter’s mental and physical toughness as well as her generous spirit: “She wants to give back to the hospital and the kids,” he says. “Rackets for Riley was a fantastic thing to do.”