Next week, students at Clay City Elementary School will report to class dressed up like Indiana Jones, Peyton Manning, Cinderella and other characters.
This is all a part of the annual "Read-In for Riley" to raise money and awareness for Riley Children's Hospital.
This fun, and educational, program fosters a love for reading and helps to raise funds for sick children.
"I think it is really good for our kids in Clay City. They aren't exposed to a lot of children with illnesses. This program will help bring awareness to our children, and open their eyes to a bigger world," Jennifer Schroer first-grade teacher and associate director of Clay City Elementary's read-in, said.
The school's goal is to incorporate reading curriculum, inspire the students to become life-long philanthropists, educate them about the needs of others and beat the amount of money the school raised last year.
"The kids really want to give," Schroer said, "Especially the younger ones."
Riley Advisory Board member Susan Miles spoke to the students Friday morning about the hospital, the patients and their needs.
"I want to show the children that they have the power to help others, to think outside themselves, to move into action to benefit others, and make a difference. I want the kids to feel ownership of that," Miles said.
Miles has worked with Riley for 11 years. She is instrumental in Camp Riley, a summer camp for Youth with Physical Disabilities, and in the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home. The Riley Read-In is just one part of a bigger program, Kids Caring and Sharing.
When she first started working for Riley, Miles didn't have a personal connection with the hospital. She took the job when she was between jobs, and had been working for a public relations agency. Miles was sitting on a back porch with Riley's president when he offered her a full-time position. She accepted, but later her second daughter, Hope Miles, developed type 1 diabetes and had to be treated at the same hospital Miles had devoted so much time and energy to.
"It is funny how your life works itself out for you. Riley really empowers the family to go home and live a normal life," Miles said.
As a result of her personal and professional experiences, Miles wants to inspire others to help Riley children and families. She explained to students Friday the money they raise will fund clinicals, non-self sponsored patients and general benefits. Miles said the hospital is a teaching, research and referral hospital.
"Fifty percent of our patients are under 2-years-old. Two hundred and fifty thousand patients are treated at the main Riley campus, and there are 7 other clinics," Miles said.
There are about 365 children who attend Clay City Elementary. Last year, the students raised over $2,000. This classifies them as a "miracle school" because they raised at least $1 for every student in attendance. If every school in the corporation joined forces with Clay City Elementary they would be a "Riley corporation."
Schroer said in the past some students have donated their own birthday money and broke open piggy banks to give.
Fourth-grade teacher and associate director, Vangie Harrison said some students have shared their own experiences with pupils about how Riley Children's Hospital has helped when they needed medical attention.
"It is a break for the kids. It takes them out of their routine and they get to do something different. They see and hear people read to them, and it's all for a good cause," Harrison said.
During the week, local celebrities, school officials, and community members will be volunteering their time to read to students. Some of these people include television personalities Mark Allen and Jesse Walker, as well as Mike Ames an Army National Guardsman, Clay City High School Principal Jeff Bell, Assistant Principal Michael Owens and elementary school speech teacher Jim Lell.
Schroer said male students really enjoy when Principal Bell reads the book "Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success" by former Indiana basketball coach and legend John R. Wooden.
On Monday, students get to wear their pajamas to school. Tuesday, they have a choice to eat lunch with their teacher. Wednesday, the students can dress up as their favorite person or character. Thursday, the elementary school is have a "Minute to Win It" competition, and will raffle off tickets for the students to participate, and Friday, after all the money is added up, the grade level with the most money donated is rewarded with a pizza and soda pop party.
Riley Read-In has been a tradition for over 20 years. This is Schroer's fourth year directing the activities and Harrison's second year.
Both teachers say there is a lot of time and stressful planning that goes into making this day happen. They have to plan the activities, coordinate scheduling between many different people and events, create daily themes, count all the money after everyday and add up the totals for each grade level, and make many phone calls and emails to the involved parties.
"Communication is key," Schroer said, "As teachers, you have to play it up big time in the classroom and remind the children everyday. Some parents will not remember to have their children participate, but if we can help the kids remember then we help the parents remember."
It might be a lot of work, but it is all worth it in the end. Schroer added, "When you think about the children being helped, what the families are going through, the children's needs, and making a difference in the lives of the kids."
If you would like to find out more about the Riley Read-In or Kids Sharing and Sharing contact Clay City Elementary School at (812) 939-3120 or visit the Riley website at www.rileykids.org/events/kids_caring_and....