Hannah Jacobs

At Plymouth High School’s first Riley Dance Marathon, more than 200 students danced their final choreographed number at halftime of a boys’ varsity basketball game. Spectators gasped, then cheered, when a dozen students in the upper bleachers turned cards that revealed a marathon total of $10,483.39-but no one was more shocked than Hannah Jacobs, 16, who started the ball rolling. Her parents Art and Lisa Jacobs were in tears.

“It wasn’t the amount of money they raised,” Art says. “It was that Hannah was able to lead a group of people to do such good.”

Hannah had an excellent role model-her older sister Amy, who served on Ball State University’s Dance Marathon committee. Once her family attended Amy’s event, Hannah became determined to bring a dance marathon to Plymouth. “Both of my kids have very caring hearts,” Art says.

Hannah teamed up with a fellow Riley kid and PHS student, her friend Cassie Gaines, and the two worked tirelessly on the January 2012 inaugural marathon. “This was the single most inspiring event of true teamwork that we’d had in a long time,” says Aimee Portteus, director of guidance at the high school.

Hannah has received care at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health since infancy for issues related to spina bifida, including several surgeries on her back and feet, and reconstruction of her bowel and bladder. She is paralyzed from the waist down. “She has been through a lot,” her mother Lisa says. “I look at her, and I smile. I’m just proud to be her mom.”

The outgoing teenager is active in her church youth group and Key Club, serves as manager for the cross country team, and has volunteered at a local food bank. Her goals include going to college to become an elementary school teacher. “I think Hannah affects her fellow students most by simply being herself,” Aimee says. “She doesn’t act like, nor do they treat her like, a girl in a wheelchair; she’s just Hannah. She’s an important part of them just because of who she is.”

With her lifelong association with Riley Hospital, this Champion feels qualified to spread the word about Riley: “They are amazing-super, super, super nice. It’s a second home.”

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