Before Riley Children’s Health opened in 1924, a group of community women came together to ensure that the future young patients of the hospital would have some of the comforts of home at the hospital to cheer them up.
Thus began the Riley Cheer Guild, and by the time the hospital opened in November of that year, the Riley Cheer Guild had provided a roomful of toys and scrapbooks ready for kids to enjoy, as well as furnished a library full of children’s books.
The Riley Cheer Guild continues to this day, and now includes more than 450 members who support child-centered programs within Riley Children’s Health and Indiana University Health hospitals. Indy’s Child spoke to Ann Hannan, director of the Riley Cheer Guild, about how the organization makes a difference in the lives of the children who visit these hospitals.
What does the Riley Cheer Guild do to help children who visit Riley and IU Health?
Members participate in toy drives, make items such as fleece blankets and tote bags, and contribute financial support.
Our members also help support our programs, both financially through dues and donations, and through in-kind donations. Our programs include the Toy Room at Riley Hospital, Music Therapy at Riley, and support of music therapy and art therapy through the CompleteLife program at University Hospital. These programs are funded through membership dues and donations, online fundraising, event fundraising and gift shop sales at any one of nine shops across the downtown hospitals and at IU North, including the new Schwarz Cancer Center. (Visit rileycheerguild.org/gift-shops to find the locations of Riley Cheer Guild gift shops around Indy.)
The Toy Room is our longest running program. We accept new, unused toys for the patients we serve. We safety check all items, and make them available in the Toy Room for child life specialists and other clinicians to select from for the patients they see. In addition to using donated items, financial donations are used to purchase the most needed items. On average, approximately 14,000 items are distributed from the Toy Room monthly!
Our Riley Cheer Guild Music Therapy program began in September 2000, and we also financially support the CompleteLife program, which includes music therapy, art therapy, massage therapy, yoga therapy and therapeutic cosmetology.
The pandemic has required that many organizations pivot how they do things. What has your organization been doing differently?
During the initial stay-at-home orders, the Riley Cheer Guild served as the contact point and helped to coordinate the Riley Staff Food Donations Committee. Community members and local organizations came forward to honor and support hospital workers during the first few months of the pandemic. Some of the donations included snacks, drinks, desserts and whole meals. A few of the donations were for all 3,000 Riley team members across central Indiana, many helped to support several units or clinics at a time, and all were so appreciated by Riley staff.
Our Riley Social Work team has now spearheaded a team member food pantry which debuted in May, and is being supported internally by Riley staff and throughout the community with group and individual sponsors.
How can people join or help the Riley Cheer Guild?
Riley Cheer Guild values each contribution of time, expertise and financial or in-kind gift from community members. To learn more about how you can make a difference, visit rileycheerguild.org and click on “How to Help.”