Katherine Alderfer

Having a chronic disease doesn’t dim the smile that lights Katherine Alderfer’s face when she’s playing volleyball, cheerleading or hanging with her twin sister Caroline. “I’m just a really a happy person,” Katherine says. “She’s definitely got grit,” adds her mother. “She’s kind and generous—and determined.”

Now 13, Katherine had just turned 4 when she was diagnosed with juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM). Riley Pediatric Rheumatologist Susan Ballinger, M.D., helped her parents Alan and Kristine Alderfer of Winona Lake, Ind., grasp the rare disease that causes Katherine’s immune system to attack her muscles and skin. Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health sees only seven-to-10 cases a year according to Dr. Ballinger.

Katherine comes to Riley monthly for an infusion to help control the rash and muscle weakness JDM causes. “Her mom and dad are on top of her treatment but also interested in the greater community,” Dr. Ballinger says. “Her mom is on the forefront of national patient advocacy. They’re kind, warm people who understand multidisciplinary care and a team approach.”

Katherine’s complex case has involved many specialties beyond rheumatology. Having them all under one roof at Riley has made it easier for the family to get the wide-ranging treatment her daughter needs, Kristine says.

Riley’s art therapy program has been especially important to Katherine. When the Alderfers learned such programs are funded entirely through Riley Children’s Foundation donors, they joined forces with another Riley family—that of Alan’s business partner—to organize the Kosciusko County Riley Kids Fund. Through their primary annual fundraiser, the WRSW Radiothon, they are now raising upwards of $80,000 annually to support local Riley families as well as the Suzanne L. Bowyer, M.D., Endowment Fund for Pediatric Rheumatology at Riley. Katherine also proudly shares her story at Riley Dance Marathons across the state. 

Katherine is excited to be a Riley Champion so she can continue to raise money and awareness not only for her disease but also for Riley Hospital. “All of the great doctors and nurses help me, and so I want to help other people,” she says.

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