Making Miracles Happen

Students give back to Riley

Rachel Bayler, Reporter

Tears brimming in her eyes, sophomore Meghan Mendel tells the story about the day she found out that her little sister Kari had a brain tumor.

After noticing something wrong with her eye, Kari had an MRI that revealed a tumor the size of a very large orange. That Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, she had a five-hour long surgery at Riley Hospital in order to remove the tumor and determine if it was cancerous.

Upon removal, the tumor was found to be benign. Kari stayed in the hospital for a few more days, healing quickly and soon returning home. Later, on Feb. 15, 2017, Kari popped a stitch while sneezing, requiring her to go back to the hospital so they could resuture the membrane and give her a lumbar drain to drain the fluid in her brain.

Now, over a year later, Kari is back home and back to normal health, and Mendel has joined Riley Dance Marathon (RDM) to help support kids like her sister.

“I wasn’t really into RDM my freshman year,” Mendel said. “Once she had to have surgery, she influenced me to (get involved) because I wanted to help out the kids more.”

Influenced by stories similar to Kari’s, Mendel and many others are participating in Riley Dance Marathon today in order to help increase awareness and raise money for Riley Hospital while hearing the stories of kids who, like Kari, sought treatment at Riley.

Though hearing the news about her sister’s tumor was a frightening experience, Mendel says that the staff at Riley were very supportive. She says that after she and her family heard the news, the doctor brought in tissues and let them spend time together to process the news. Later, while her sister was recovering, Mendel says that the staff always welcomed them and made it like a “home away from home,” and became like friends to them and Kari.

“You pretty much create a friendship with your doctor once you are with them so many times,” Mendel said. “It’s amazing. They take their job seriously but they don’t act serious.”

Junior Kaylie Engel had a similar experience with the staff at Riley Hospital, saying the hospital staff tried to relate to her and talk to her when she was admitted for a multitude of health issues including organ failure and the flu virus. They would discuss her interests with her and sit with her if she was having a bad day. This led her to want to volunteer at the hospital and participate in the dance marathon.

“It just helps people,” Engel said. ”There’s nothing bad that can come out of it.”

Junior Haley Cox, RDM’s director of fundraising, says that on top of going to help fund research at the hospital, the money raised at the marathon helps provide support for families who can’t afford to pay for surgeries and to create a fun environment for the kids too.

Sophomore Caitlin Lindbeck is the director of Riley Development and is in charge of finding families from Riley who would be willing to talk at the Dance Marathon and share their stories. She says that hearing the stories of other people at the marathon helps other people come forward with their stories about their experiences at Riley and calls attention to the number of people at SHS who have had an experience with Riley Hospital.

“We have people in this school that are actually impacted by Riley,” Lindbeck said. “When we have (the Dance Marathon), it shows other people why we’re doing this. They’re our peers, so we should appreciate them.”

According to the 2017 Riley Conference presentation, the 64 high schools involved with Riley Dance Marathon have raised over $1.6 million to support the hospital’s work. Affected not only by her own personal story, Mendel says that hearing the stories of other people at RDM has opened her eyes and made her more involved in RDM.

“RDM is for the kids and she’s my kid, pretty much, and that’s why I’ve been so into it this year,” Mendel said.