Veronika “Anika” Lunde

Riley kid Veronika “Anika” Lunde
Veronika “Anika” Lunde, Bloomington

“I’m pretty much a girl who wants to go full-speed,” says Veronika Lunde from Bloomington, who goes by “Anika.” That’s why the Bloomington South High School student, who aspires to be a veterinarian, has fallen in love with Camp Riley. It’s a place where “full-speed” includes horseback riding, waterskiing and other outdoor adventures that are rare experiences for children with physical disabilities. Camp Riley has strengthened Anika’s uncanny ability to light up a room—a trait that led to a life-changing moment more than a decade ago.  

Dawna and Kern Lunde were on a mission trip to Belarus when they visited an orphanage. Their daughter, Kae, was 12, and they felt their family was complete—until they met 2-year-old Anika. “After spending just 45 minutes in the room, we were so impacted by this little bundle of energy,” says Dawna. “We started saying, ‘what is our daughter doing in an orphanage in Belarus, and how do we bring her home?’” 

Kern and Dawna began the long process of international adoption. Two years later, in 2003, they finally had the steps completed and returned for their new daughter. Dawna will never forget introducing Anika to Kae for the first time, using Russian phrases she had learned. “I whispered in Anika’s ear, ‘That is your sister.’ She whipped her head around and wrapped Kae up in her arms! They have been best friends since then.”   

The Lundes, who lived in California at the time, knew that Anika had some medical challenges due to spina bifida. They brought her to a specialist, who recommended she undergo spinal surgery to avoid eventual paralysis. But something went wrong during the operation. Doctors believe Anika experienced a stroke in her spinal cord which left her paralyzed from the waist down—the very problem they were trying to avoid. 

Kern says the biggest factor that helped them adjust to their new normal was Anika herself. “Over the years she’s done things we weren’t expecting her to do,” says Kern. “She has been great about having an attitude focused on what is possible, not what’s impossible.” 

After the family relocated to Bloomington, Ind., Anika began receiving care at Riley Hospital, including surgery conducted by urologist Richard Rink, M.D. The Lundes appreciate the way Anika’s Bloomington pediatrician, Dr. Brechin Newby with Southern Indiana Pediatrics, works in collaboration with Riley, and the way Dr. Rink involves the whole family. “I feel like he listens to what we have to share with him, and that we get to be part of the treatment plan,” says Dawna. “That’s important to me as a mom.” 

The Lundes say they wish they could thank all the donors who support Riley Hospital and Camp Riley, places that have helped their daughter live her life to the fullest. “She shines. She is a beacon of light,” says Dawna. “I am so proud of her.”

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