SYRACUSE — A “lakeside gathering” to share and hear more about the Riley Hospital for Children and Riley Children’s Foundation was held at the Mike and Rebecca Kubacki home Saturday evening on Syracuse Lake.
Guests heard the experience of Alan and Kristine Alderfer, a Riley family, as they told of their experience with their 9-year-old daughter, Katherine, who was diagnosed with juvenile dermatomyositis, a skin and muscle inflammation that is a rare disease that affects two out of a million individuals.
Kristine Alderfer spoke of their journey to Riley Hospital, while Alan Alderfer talked of their Riley experience and the art therapy program offered. Their daughter was hospitalized at Riley with eight vertebrae fractures and had “turned off everyone.” Alan Alderfer stated “she wouldn’t talk to anyone, look at anyone, covering her head … she was not involved with anybody at all.”
He spoke of their chance meeting with “Art Michelle” who presented the art therapy to their daughter. “That little girl who wouldn’t talk to any body was back. Art Michelle literally in 45 minutes brought this girl back from this depth, really she was hugely depressed.”
That experience is why the Alderfers are huge supporters of the art therapy program, which is not reimbursable by insurance. “There is so much great research at the hospital, but it’s the little thing like art therapy,” said Alan Aldefer. “We raise money for Riley to help that program, child life issues, if it wasn’t for us giving money it wouldn’t exist.”
Guests heard from Dr. Paul Haut, interim president and chief medical officer at Riley Hospital For Children, and Kevin O’Keefe, president and chief executive officer of Riley Children’s Foundation.
Haut spoke of the importance of Riley and the work it does, while O’Keefe spoke about the importance of Riley Hospital and the strategic planning process taking place for critical needs by the hospital in the next five years.
O’Keefe stated Riley is one of the top 10 pediatric research centers for advancing care for children in the country. He spoke of the strategic planning to respond to great and urgent needs of the hospital for the next five years which is now underway. He provided a snapshot of the three critical pieces in the strategic planning: esearch and clinical care; addressing infant mortality and developing a comprehensive program for the state and finally family programs, the Child Life Programs, areas that do no receive any funding outside of philanthropy.
O’Keefe stated at Riley, red wagons are the mode of transportation for the children as they are pulled through the hospital. “The red wagon has become a symbol to represent a care of love that people have for children at Riley. The highest honor that we give our friends, we dedicate these red wagons,” said O’Keefe. He dedicated a wagon that evening in gratitude to Dr. Dane and Mary Louise Miller for their work. The wagon, which will be put in serve at Riley, will carry a license plate that reads “4RileyKids in honor of Dr. Dane and Mary Louse Miller.”