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Hip-hip-hooray for the Cheer Guild

“I wouldn’t be here today without Riley.” As an infant, Heather Dawes came to Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health for surgery to repair a heart valve. “The doctors at the hospital where I was born made my Mom feel there was no point in having hope in my survival, let alone a positive future. She was told if I happened to survive, my future was grim at best because I would be blind, deaf or even mentally retarded. After spending several weeks in the NICU at Riley and undergoing surgery, I beat the odds and have had no negative effects.”

Now, Heather is a happy and healthy adult with children of her own who have also been treated at Riley Hospital for Children. “Jacob is our oldest, now eight, and was rushed to Riley when he was six weeks old when he was treated for RSV. At the age of 10 months we returned, and he underwent a double hernia surgery. At the age of four, Jacob was diagnosed with Asperger’s and mood regulation disorder, in which Riley was able to help us stabilize his moods in a time of crisis. Our second child Jeremy has been treated at Riley Pulmonary since he was an infant for asthma and sleep apnea as well as a tonsil and adenoid surgery. Our third child, Julia was born with a hand that did not fully develop. We were lucky enough to have a Riley surgeon give her the ability to have more stability and utilization in her hand.”

Bringing smiles to Riley families

Heather’s personal experience as a Riley patient and mom gives her insight into caring for ill children and their families, “I know what it is like to walk the halls as a scared Mom, not just an employee.” She understands even the simplest gestures can make a big difference. Her goal, “bring a smile to a patient’s face.”

She brings smiles everyday through the Cheer Guild’s largest project, the Toy Room. Each month, the Toy Room delivers more than 14,000 items to patients visiting or staying in the hospital. These items include toys, fleece blankets, puppy pillows and much more. The items brighten hospital rooms, help kids pass time and bring those oh so precious smiles to children’s faces.

As Director of the Cheer Guild, Heather has the unique opportunity to help Riley kids forget the needles, tests and doctors appointments they undergo as patients. Instead, she and the Cheer Guild allow patients to laugh, play and well…be kids again.

Volunteers make it happen

Of course, the Cheer Guild depends on the efforts of outstanding volunteers who bring comfort and cheer to patients during their hospital stay. Heather, like many other people at Riley at IU Health, finds this inspirational. “It is so rewarding to see volunteers eager to work each and every day without any monetary payment to make a difference for families and patients.”

Get involved

How has the Cheer Guild enhanced you or your child’s hospital stay? Please share your Cheer Guild experiences with us, email your story!

If you are interested in donating your time, items for the Toy Room or a monetary amount to the Cheer Guild at Riley at IU Health, please visit the Cheer Guild website to find out how you can help, email or call 317.944.8705.

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