Kroger + Riley = Amazing Results for Kids

An Inspiring Partner

Kroger customers drop donations in Riley buckets outside the store at 71st and Binford Blvd. in Indianapolis

At Kroger we truly are a large family. We work hard to take care of each other and our customers every day. As a local store in communities for 131 years, we know we need to do our part one generation at a time, but we can’t do that without exceptional partners like Riley Hospital for Children.

Kroger is involved with hundreds of organizations and causes, but nothing we do for our local communities inspires more passion than Riley Hospital. Riley is an amazing place that improves the quality of life for children and grandchildren of Kroger associates and customers every day.

Each year, we come together with John Andretti, Dave Wilson, our vendor partner General Mills, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Illiana Watermelon Association and others to raise money for Riley through a series of fun events.

Amazing Results for Amazing Riley Kids

John Andretti, our devoted Riley fundraising partner, shops with Riley parent Shawn June. She won a shopping spree donated by General Mills.

Our generous Kroger associates and customers donated a record $167,118 through the red wagon scan in our local Indiana stores – more than triple last year’s results.

Also, the six fundraising events and local store activities together raised $332,869 – another record result thanks to our partners, customers and associates. This brings our multi-year total to $2.68 million.

Heartfelt Thanks

Riley families join Kroger associates for a Dance Marathon at the store at 10th St. and Shadeland Ave. in Indianapolis

We are filled with gratitude for so many people who made these incredible results possible:

  • Thank you to every customer and associate who chipped in to make these gifts to Riley possible.
  • Thank you to Riley Hospital for the medical miracles performed there every day for our Kroger family.
  • And thank you, Riley Children’s Foundation, for the heartwarming and inspiring fundraising opportunities. Our Kroger family is thrilled to be a part of them.

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“I Believe in White Clothes”: Jace’s Riley Story

If you walk down the halls of any school in Indiana, chances are good you’ll pass a “Riley Kid.” The wide-ranging health battles they have fought and the medical professionals who have helped them fight often shape these kids’ lives in powerful ways.

Lawrence Central High School golfer and Riley cardiology patient, Jace Mike, Indianapolis

One of those Riley Kids you’ll find walking down the hall of Lawrence Central High School is Jace Mike. The 17-year-old plays on the school golf team and loves to draw. He has plans of pursuing a career in architecture, and also dreams about designing his own line of shoes.

Jace is one of countless kids who wouldn’t be here today without Riley.

Jace was born with a heart defect known as IAA – Interrupted Aortic Arch, as well as transposition of the great vessels. Riley heart surgeon Dr. John Brown performed Jace’s first open-heart surgery when he was a newborn. Jace has had several other heart surgeries, including some done through less-invasive heart catheterization procedures. He continues to be followed by Riley cardiologist Roger Hurwitz, M.D., and will likely need future procedures to replace his aortic valve.

Jace had his first open-heart surgery at Riley Hospital as a newborn

Jace shared some of his story in an essay he wrote at school. The assignment was to write about something he believed in. For Jace, that was easy: he believed in his Riley doctors.

He remembered being a little boy and noticing the white clothes his doctors wore. Now, as a teenager, he sees those physicians’ white coats in a new light. “I believe in ‘White Clothes’ because of their dedication to research and studies they do to advance medicine,” Jace wrote in his essay. “Because of new medical technology and God, my life is as normal as any other person.”

Jace’s essay went on to encourage others to develop trusting relationships with their physicians, get regular check-ups and follow their doctor’s advice. “They are here on Earth to help and save lives,” said Jace. “I’m truly blessed to have ‘White Clothes’ in my life.”

Jace at Riley as a toddler

Those of you who support Riley Hospital play a critical role in making sure those ‘White Clothes’ can carry out their important work. Because of your gifts to Riley:

  • Kids like Jace get the chance to grow up; to learn; to dream
  • Medical professionals have the resources they need to give kids and their families the very best care
  • Riley physician-scientists can keep searching for better treatments and cures

Thank you, Jace, for letting your Riley doctors know how much they mean to you.

And thank you, Riley supporters, for showing how much Riley Kids mean to you.

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“I always knew I wanted to cure cancer.” A Riley researcher’s loss-inspired mission

A Loss-inspired Dream

Spending time on the water with my husband Nick and our children, Lanie and Micah

Being a mother has strengthened my passion for pediatric research. I have a 9-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son. When you’re a parent, any illness affecting children touches your heart. But my journey into the world of pediatric cancer research started long before I had children of my own.

My father, Gary Limp, died of cancer when I was young

I always knew I wanted to cure cancer because I lost my dad to cancer at a young age. As I was growing up in Zionsville, I thought I wanted to get a master’s degree and eventually work at Lilly. That’s how the dream started, but most importantly I wanted to make a difference so that another little girl did not lose her dad.

Reaching Higher

I went to the University of Dayton and majored in chemistry. I discovered I really liked applying the biology and chemistry to problems. I also discovered that somebody who takes you under their wing can make a big difference. My undergrad mentor said, “You can drive your own project, you have your own ideas – you should get a Ph.D.” I never thought I could have a Ph.D. It seemed so far off and HARD. He really pushed me to apply to programs, and he believed in me, which helped me to believe in myself.

My college roommate, Regina Marcello (right) passed away after a battle with liver cancer

Another push came after my college roommate, Regina Marcello, got liver cancer. She wanted to get a master’s or Ph.D. in psychology. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to pursue her dreams. Regina was treated on a pediatric unit, but cancer ultimately took her life. Her death spurred on my desire to work in cancer, and to complete a Ph.D.

One Step at a Time

Out of all the Ph.D. programs I looked at, I chose the IU School of Medicine because the faculty’s research seemed the most clinically applicable compared to other programs which focused on more basic science. I worked with Mark Kelley, Ph.D., right across the street from Riley Hospital and University Hospital, where my dad was treated. I took it one step at a time. That was how I completed my doctorate.

My post-doc research at University of Chicago focused on making chemotherapy work more effectively. That’s where I’ve built my career. Tumors have a lot of tricks up their sleeves. Cancer is smart in how it combats what we throw at it. My goal is to understand it even better to figure out how to kill it.

New Attacks on Cancer

3D tumor cultures are helping us see how cancerous tumors interact with their microenvironment

Now, I work in the Wells Center for Pediatric Research, attached to Riley Hospital. In the lab I’m trying to model tumors better by also using cells from their microenvironment. We’re using 3D cultures so the cells grow more like tumors in a dish rather than cells stuck to plastic.

We’re also working on a study involving a protein called Stat3. It’s a transcription factor that helps cancer cells make proteins that make them grow, invade and spread. My team became interested in Stat3 after finding that it could be regulated by another protein called Ape1, which we have been studying for several years. We found that in pediatric cancers such as glioblastoma, if you inhibit both Ape1 and Stat3 at the same time, the cells are strongly affected. In other words, we can take doses of both inhibitors that don’t kill the cells by themselves, and put them together, and the cancer cells are dramatically killed following treatment.

We’re hoping that can help us use lower doses and still get positive results. We want to go after the targeted cells without hurting the healthy ones and using lower doses in kids has a huge benefit long term.

Right now I’m working with a medicinal chemist from the University of Toronto who has created a variety of new Stat3 compounds to test in mice. Once we find out if the drugs are stable in the mice, we will do tumor studies. I am excited about the potential of this work. We know that this should ultimately be able to have impact on cancer.

The Highest of Stakes

When I am in the lab, I often think of the children across the street in the Riley Cancer Center. I think about my own kids’ futures. I think about my roommate. I think about my dad. I think about my faith in God, which has also propelled me along this career path.

Knowing what’s at stake pushes me forward each day.

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The Best (and Worst) 25 Days of our Lives

No Ordinary “Bug”

Our son, Owen Boatright

Life was normal for our family last year when our 9-year-old son Owen became sick the day before Thanksgiving. We thought he had an intestinal bug and would be fine in a few days. We missed Thanksgiving with our family. By early Saturday morning Owen was passing blood in his stool. I sought advice from a friend who is a nurse, and she advised me that Owen may have E. coli.  Unfortunately, I knew E. coli could have a disastrous outcome.

We went to Hendricks Regional Hospital and Owen was immediately transferred to Riley Hospital since kidney problems can be associated with E. coli and he needed access to advanced specialists. We were welcomed with caring, compassionate arms from the minute we reached the doors of Riley Hospital until we left 25 days later. The doctors, nurses and staff quickly became part of our family.

A Turn for the Worse

The Boatright Family

Within four days of admittance, Owen’s condition took a turn for the worse. He was in full renal failure and had been diagnosed with HUS (Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome). There is no treatment for E. coli—it’s a “wait and see” game. You treat the symptoms as they present themselves and pray that your child recovers.

While things looked bad, it was comforting to hear the staff talk about pediatric nephrologist Sharon Andreoli, M.D. She was the best in the country, we were told; she wrote the book on HUS. While she is the BEST, Dr. Andreoli will tell you that they have a great renal team. I was amazed at the humility of everyone at Riley. There were no egos to be found, and my family always felt like part of the team when it came to Owen’s treatment.

Twists, Turns and Grace

Dr. Andreoli told us from the beginning how things could play out. She didn’t try to hide the truth and we appreciated knowing the full scope of what we were up against. Owen faced many complications during his 25-day stay at Riley. We knew he was going to need dialysis, a central line and maybe a blood transfusion. Unfortunately, Owen faced other complications. He had to have fluid drained from his lung. He developed a bowel abscess that was fought by a powerful antibiotic, and his body was not cooperating with the dialysis.

The Thursday before Christmas they decided to switch Owen’s form of dialysis to a more invasive form called hemodialysis. We didn’t know how his story would end. Up to this point, everything seemed to be going wrong. Then, by the grace of God, on the day Owen was to be switched to hemodialysis, his kidneys woke up. We were so grateful for the quick thinking of Dr. Andreoli, who decided to put the switch on hold for four more hours. The next blood draw showed Owen was on his way to recovery. We thank God and we thank Dr. Andreoli for the wisdom she used on that day.

Giving Back

Owen always wants to help others and puts people before himself. He decided to turn his illness into a chance to help others at Riley. Instead of bringing him gifts, he asked that people donate money to Riley. He raised $2,300, which he happily gave to the nephrology team through the hospital’s fundraising arm, Riley Children’s Foundation.

Our Riley “Family”

Today, Owen is recovered and back to the activities he enjoys, including theater. Here he is as Woodstock in a Cascade High School production of "Snoopy: The Musical."

Eight months after Owen’s illness, he is perfect. Owen still continues to visit his “Riley Family” when he gets the chance. They still greet him with the same warm smiles and hugs that he received on November 30, 2013. One of his favorite doctors, Dr. Jeffrey Leiser (lovingly renamed “Dr. Bow Tie” by Owen) has even inspired Owen’s newest fashion style. He was so good with Owen, and so much fun. Dr. Leiser helped us have good memories attached to his illness, not just painful ones.

We believe God placed us in the path of the best people. We will be forever grateful to God and the people who helped to be part of the miracle.

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“Miracles Happen at Riley”: Katelyn’s NICU Story

MYSTERY ILLNESS

Our daughter, Katelyn Petts

Katelyn arrived at Riley after spending a week in the NICU at another hospital. Katelyn was a full-term baby but had been unexpectedly battling lung disease for a week following birth and it was getting harder to keep her stabilized. She was being transferred to Riley to possibly be put on ECMO (infant life support) and no one was sure whether she would make it through the transport to Riley.

"We are firm believers in the idea that miracles happen at Riley."

The first couple of days at Riley were hectic as doctors tried to get a handle on her illness. She had lots of tests, but doctors could not figure out what was making her so sick. Dr. Diane Lorant gave Katelyn a cystic fibrosis drug to see if it would help. Dr. Lorant encouraged us from the beginning to believe in miracles. After two days at Riley, the miracle began; Katelyn started to stabilize longer than she ever had before. Many of the staff thought that she was improving clinically and encouraged us to believe the impossible: that our daughter would get better.

A NEW HURDLE

Throughout the next couple of weeks, Katelyn was able to wean off the ventilator and oxygen support. Mary Lynn Foster, RN, and respiratory therapist Donna Walker pushed to get her off of supports more quickly, allowing us to hold our daughter for the first time when she was 16 days old. After three weeks at Riley, Katelyn had only one major hurdle to overcome: drug dependency. She was given high doses of morphine and sedatives to survive and had to overcome withdrawal symptoms.

A MUCH-NEEDED RESPITE

One day was especially bad; she cried all day and numerous people tried to get her calm. In the late afternoon, Child Life Specialist Angela Brennecke came to our room and told us we needed to leave for the night – things were too stressful and we needed a break. She presented us with Indiana Pacers NBA playoff tickets and we were able to escape for a few hours and watch a Pacers win over the Miami Heat. It was a memorable night, especially because the NPs and nurses got our daughter to sleep without drugs and she has been drug-free ever since.

STAYING CONNECTED THROUGH MUSIC

While Katelyn was in the hospital, we stayed at the Ronald McDonald House and had to live apart from our 18-month-old son, Colin, most of the time. Music therapist Ann Hannan provided us with books and songs to share with him, including one of Colin’s now all-time favorite songs: Rocket Ship Run. This support really helped us to stay connected as a family even though we had to live apart.

OUR RILEY MIRACLES: HEALING AND HOPE

After 30 days in the hospital, Katelyn was released, completely off oxygen and feeding from a bottle. No one expected or can explain that. Katelyn’s smile and laugh warms our heart every day. Every happy moment we get to spend with our daughter, we attribute to the quality care we all received at Riley. Not only did they work a miracle healing our daughter, they healed our hearts through an extremely difficult time in our life and taught us to hope and look toward the future.

We are true believers in the idea that miracles happen at Riley. Our beautiful daughter is living proof of that.

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Amazing Grace: The photos that captured our daughter’s winning Moment

WINNING MOMENT

These pictures I have shared with friends this week capture just a fraction of the joy my family feels. Our daughter Grace is winning her battle with a brain tumor thanks to Riley Hospital, Dr. Joel Boaz and Dr. Jodi Smith.

SCARY DIAGNOSIS

When Grace was 3-and-a-half years old, she was diagnosed with a Grade II Oligoastrocytoma brain tumor. She had a right frontal resection/full craniotomy at Riley Hospital on March 1, 2010. Neurosurgeon Dr. Joel Boaz was able to remove a small portion of her tumor. The remainder was surrounded by a blood barrier. She underwent two years of chemo to try to kill anything remaining.

NEW PROBLEMS

Stephanie and Gracie Bennett

Grace finished treatment on February 14, 2012. In the fall of 2013, Grace started zoning off and became emotional and irritable. My gut was saying something wasn’t right. During a visit to my sister in Missouri, Grace had a full blown seizure and was unresponsive for 12 minutes! Belton Medical Center worked with Riley Hospital to get treatment started and then we traveled home the following day. We then met with Riley Neurosurgeon Dr. Joel Boaz, and he wanted to watch her closely.

Grace began having  big seizures about every four weeks. Then, in January 2014 she had three in one weekend. Dr. Boaz said he felt surgery was the only option. He told us that his colleague, Dr. Jodi Smith, was the best surgeon to handle Grace’s case. We love Dr. Boaz and have great respect for him, and so we trusted him in this decision.

SECOND SURGERY

Grace broke down and did not want to go through another surgery. She wasn’t that innocent 3-year-old anymore. She was more aware of what was going on and what could happen. After meeting Dr. Smith, we immediately knew she was going to take care of Grace. Grace loved her!

Surgery day came on March 31st of this year. After 12 hours, my husband Chris and I were called in to talk to Dr. Smith. She said that when she started surgery, Grace was having seizures every two minutes. Dr. Smith removed a cyst, some surrounding brain tissue that was dead and 99% of the tumor!

A FAST HEALER

Grace had some left side weakness and bilateral coordination issues. She started physical therapy immediately and started school work the following week.

After three weeks, Grace asked Dr. Smith if she could go back to school and play softball. Dr. Smith gave her the thumbs up! That weekend Grace played in her first tournament.

“YOU MAKE ME LOOK GOOD, KIDDO!”

Amazing Grace!

This week, Grace had her four month post-op appointment. Dr. Smith said, “Grace, you make me look good, kiddo!” She said Grace’s brain was healing great, and the MRI showed that only about 1% of her tumor remains!

Grace will have another MRI in six months and then we can hopefully graduate to every year. Grace loves Dr. Smith and so grateful for all she has done for her! Every time I see Dr. Smith I am filled with emotion.

I could never thank her enough for what she has done for Amazing Grace!

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My “Glimmer of Light”: A Riley Heart Center Story

Second Family

Riley arrhythmia technician Susan Gude is part of my "second family"

I became a Riley Kid when I was just two days old. I feel lucky that Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health has been a second home to me for as long as I can remember. I feel even luckier to be able to call the staff at Riley my second family.  Throughout the years, I have bonded with this second family more than I could have ever imagined, especially with arrhythmia technician Susan Gude.

The Extra Mile

When I hear the phrase “going the extra mile,” the first person who comes to mind is Susan. Not only does she ensure that I have the best medical care, she also makes my appointments special. Every time I have a check-up, Susan makes sure that she is the one to do my EKG. She has always known what school I attend, what activities interest me and who my friends are. She has gotten to know everyone in my family. Susan is like this with everyone, which is why I hear amazing things about her from every patient she meets.

A Helping Hand to Hold

Staff members like Susan have helped me stay positive during my Riley journey

Growing up, I had a lot of issues and limitations because of my heart condition, yet I was always able to control my heart rate thanks to medication. About two years ago, I was no longer able to control my heart when it started to go into flutter – it would beat rapidly without ever decreasing. Eventually I needed three cardioversions, a second open-heart surgery and a pacemaker.

A cardioversion is when you are put under anesthesia and your heart is electrically shocked back into rhythm. This is not Susan’s specific area of work, yet every time I went through this procedure, Susan would go to the operating room with me. She would just stand there and hold my hand or talk to me until they put me under. I never asked her to do this, she just did.

Glimmer of Light

Susan rarely shows up empty-handed when she visits. Here are just a couple of the stuffed animals she has given me.

Last year my cardiologist decided it was time for a second open-heart surgery. I spent 12 days recovering at Riley. Susan visited me almost every day during my stay, even if that meant skipping her lunch break. She never came by empty-handed. I have received about 10 stuffed animals from Susan just this year. Even though I was 18 when I had my surgery, I absolutely loved those stuffed animals. I still look at them and they remind me of Susan, which is about the most comforting thing someone could do for me.

I know Susan knows how much I appreciate her, but I will never be able to thank her for everything. She has always been a glimmer of light when life became dark. I am so lucky to call Riley a second family, and I am beyond grateful that Susan is such a big part of that family.

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Look at How These Selfless Gifts Are Helping Babies

Take a look. These machines are powerful examples of what philanthropy can do for children at Riley Hospital.

New EEG machines for the Riley NeuroNICU program illustrate the power of philanthropy

These are the newest in a fleet of 12 EEG machines at Riley. The new additions are dedicated to monitoring the brains of babies in the Riley Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The machines are just one component of the new NeuroNICU program, made possible by the generosity of The Berman Family Foundation. Only a handful of children’s hospitals in the country have such a program.

Dr. Ulrike Mietzsch is the Riley neonatologist who leads the NeuroNICU program in partnership with pediatric neurologist Mandy Harris, M.D.

We asked Dr. Mietzsch to explain the significance of this philanthropic gift:

Riley at IU Health Applied Support Analyst Matt Holloway makes adjustments to the EEG monitors

“These EEG machines are enhancing the care we can provide to babies, and decreasing the infection risk at the same time, as these machines no longer have to travel through the entire hospital. My colleagues and I are so thankful for the donors who have made Riley’s tiniest patients their personal priority.

Our main goal is to provide every baby in the Riley NICU with optimal neurological and developmental care. Our NeuroNICU program offers personalized neuromonitoring for the patients who are at risk for seizures or alterations of blood and oxygen flow to the brain. We are constantly reviewing and updating our treatment protocols and guidelines, reviewing our imaging options and identifying areas for improvement.

Longer term, we are communicating with other similar programs in the country to form a nationwide initiative and optimize brain care in neonates. The Riley NeuroNICU has joined a consortium called NICQ Next, managed by Neonatal Neurocritical care leaders from Stanford and UCSF (University of California San Francisco) as part of the Vermont Oxford Network (VON). This will definitely help us to share best practices, learn from others and develop research collaborations.

Video cameras mounted on the EEG machines allow babies to be monitored visually at all times

We are starting a comprehensive prenatal counseling clinic this fall to address families who are expecting a baby with neurological or neurosurgical problems; we also would like to expand our follow-up clinic, which so far has been very successful with an extremely high follow-up rate. The bottom line is Indiana’s babies are getting the care they need for brain disorders and injuries – and this will help them lead full lives as toddlers, school-age children, and adults.

Thank you to The Berman Family Foundation, and to all donors who support Riley Children’s Foundation. Your selfless gifts enable us to give our patients the exceptional care they deserve.”

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“This makes my heart so happy!” A day in the park shows kids the fun side of dentistry

Kids in the Park

Our University Pediatric Dentistry Booth at the WYFI Kids in the Park event

This was the second year that University Pediatric Dentistry Associates participated in WFYI Kids in the Park. With the event moved to White River State Park, attendance was at an all-time high! We wanted the public to know about us because people don’t associate dental with Riley Hospital and IU Health. Our message is that dental decay is a disease that is 100 percent preventable.

Dental Health Show and Tell

Blocks doubled as teeth, Play-Doh symbolized plaque, and yarn represented floss

This year we distributed 300 backpacks, as well as toothbrushes and child dental care literature. It was so much fun working with the children—we had a great time! We used Mega Bloks to represent teeth, Play-Doh to mimic plaque, an over-sized brush to serve as a toothbrush, and yarn to demonstrate floss.

Kids could see that between the “teeth” the gunk wouldn’t come out with just brushing, so they needed to floss correctly. This, I must say, was a BIG hit! Kids giggled when they got it, and some would high five our volunteer. The teachers who came by said they were going to use that idea in the classroom.

A Long, Fun and Rewarding Day

At the end of the day, Charlotte (our OR coordinator and volunteer) and Dr. Sanders were making plans for next year. This made my heart so happy! It is a long day, and I always fear I can’t get volunteers to stay more than an hour, but they all had a ball. Dr. Matt Damin, the dental resident, stayed all day. Dr. Amy Goodlett wished she could have stayed longer. My daughter Katie came with the intention of helping me at the end of the day to tear down.  She got right in on the brushing activity, and just loved interacting with the kids. She said, “I’ll help all day next year, Mom!”

Our Youngest Volunteers

Dental assistant Heather Sodgrass (second from left) with her daughters Phia and Lillie Steele, and dental assistant Rachael Goldstein (right) kept the day fun and active

The two volunteers that really made me most proud were the young daughters of my co-worker, Heather Sodgrass. Phia and Lillie were AWESOME. I think because they were kids, the children came to our booth more willingly. They did everything from unloading supplies, to showing how to brush, to face and hand-painting.

It was a great way to reach the public, answer questions and get kids headed toward dental health. My volunteers were great advocates for Riley and IU Health at this event.

They all make me so proud!

Did you know? Riley Children’s Foundation provides philanthropic support for the Riley Dentistry team through the Ralph E. McDonald Professorship in Pediatric Dentistry. This fund supports Dr. Jeffrey Dean and has also paid for things such as guest lecturers, new dentistry textbooks and an online archive showcasing the work of pediatric dentistry graduate students.

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“I won’t lie, it’s going to be tough.” A Mentor’s Camp Riley Story

Venture Beyond the Woods Mentor Olivia Mozzi with Camp Riley camper, Parker Timberman, Brazil, Ind.

I have the honor of serving as a mentor for two campers who attend Venture Beyond the Woods at Camp Riley. Mentors are either in college or employed, and they have personal experience dealing with a disability. They act as role models when campers return home and deal with school, issues with family and peers, and decisions about post-secondary education and employment.

I know I can count on my campers to be honest. Our conversations range from typical teenage issues to deeper discussions of what it means to live with a physical disability. The shared experience of disability enriches our relationship. I know how it feels when someone stops you at the grocery store to say that you are an inspiration—just for leaving your house to buy food.

My campers are ambitious. They are writing novels and auditioning for lead roles in the school play. But they are also frustrated. They recognize the gross under-representation of people with disabilities in society. One camper I work with, Parker Timberman from  Brazil, Ind., discovered that his favorite computer game, The Sims, did not offer the option of creating a character who uses a wheelchair. “I tried playing as an able-bodied person for a while, but I stopped because it wasn’t me,” he told me.

I wish I could tell my campers that these feelings of isolation won’t last after high school. The truth is, living with a disability will always be tough. People with disabilities are the largest minority in the United States, but it is rare that we see each other on college campuses, in the workplace and in media.

The mentor program for Venture Beyond the Woods helps to fill that void. This past weekend, 15 mentors traveled to Camp Riley to meet campers. They made s’mores, played games and swapped stories. “She’s the coolest person ever,” one camper raved about her mentor, an attorney. Everywhere you looked, people with disabilities were the majority.

Parker and I will soon share another experience: scuba certification. Each summer, Epsilon Sigma Alpha (ESA) Indiana and the Cody Unser First Step Foundation provide a day of scuba diving for Venture Beyond the Woods campers. A few campers go on to finish their certification. Parker earned his certification in January, and I began my training this summer.

Parker warned me that scuba training would be difficult. He stayed poolside during my first lesson as I struggled to master the skill of clearing a flooded mask.

When I finally surfaced with a clear mask, I heard Parker cheering the loudest.

If you are interested in serving as a Venture Beyond the Woods Mentor, please click here. Applications are being accepted through August 18, 2014.

Mentor applicants will also be asked to submit two references. Click here for our reference forms.

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