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Bear Necessity – Avon – Towne Post Network

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The Riley Children’s Foundation helps elementary students stay in touch with classmates

Screenwriter / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photograph provided

For nine years, Kayleen Jones was a social worker at Riley Hospital for Children. She saw children who endured terrible diagnoses, cancers and terminal illnesses. When her own daughter Charleigh began having a series of health issues that required a battery of tests, Jones was grateful that Riley’s experts were watching her. Although CharleighJones’ problems are less serious than what Jones has had in his career, for a 7 year old it was still a lot.

His health issues really impacted his life, Jones says.

These problems started when Charleigh was just a baby and had trouble gaining weight. Following this, she began to have regular breathing problems. She was also battling digestive issues, and yet despite testing, doctors couldt figure out what was causing her problems and how they were related. When Charleigh was 3 years old, allergy tests concluded that she was allergic to dogs and thatThat’s what was causing him all his problems. The family had two dogs, which they entrusted to a friend. Yet despite the dogsabsence, charleyhealth problems have nott improve. Further tests followed. In the end, doctors diagnosed his respiratory ailments as asthma, even though they had not present as typical asthma. They also determined that she had immune deficiencies that made her susceptible to disease. On top of all that, they found out that she was suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

It was three separate things, not all of which were related as originally suspected,” says Jones.

Then in April she had to be hospitalized because they couldn’tYou can’t get her IBS under control using medication. Therefore, the doctors had to dig a tunnel in his colon and put a tube through it. Now, every night, Jones and her husband Devon have to put medicine in the tube that goes directly to the area that needs the most help.

Although they expect the surgery to help them,is not a quick fix. Charleigh will have to visit the clinic every three months. She will have the tube for at least the next three years. At this point, doctors will reevaluate to see how things are going.Charleigh

At present, doctors are still trying to find the right medical protocol. As a result, she misses school a lot. These extended absences from school are the reason why Holly ClarkCedar Elementary’s freshman class presented to Riley Children’s Foundations Bear in the Chair program. This program was designed to help a student who must be away from school for an extended period of time feel connected to their classmates. To be eligible for the program, a student must miss at least two consecutive weeks of school for illness or surgery. This was the case for Charleigh. Therefore, Riley’s team provided her class with a giant teddy bear, explaining that the bear would sit in Charleighseat during his absence. The students took the bear with them to “specials” – classes like music and art – as well as the cafeteria and recess, to help them feel connected with their friend.

This program has been a lifeline for Charleighs emotional and mental health,” Jones says.

Several weeks after her surgery, Jones told her daughter she had to go back to the doctor for a test that would cause her to miss half the school day.

At first she was so sad, but I reminded her that her bear would keep her chair warm and her friends could take the bear with them to special events,” Jones says. “It quickly changed his mood.”

CharleighThe bear’s bear, which her classmates named Harley, was delivered to her class on April 28. The students were thrilled not only to meet their new fuzzy classmate, but also to see Charleigh on a Zoom call the moment he was delivered.

The class does this thing called GoNoodle, which is a YouTube link that gets kids dancing and moving in the middle of the day when they need a brain break,” Jones explains. Ms. Clark showed me a video of a student holding Harley doing the GoNoodle.

Avon K-8 students participate in a field day each May, just before the end of the school year. All students get a free field day t-shirt, and Cedar Elementary made sure to get one for Harley.

Yeah, Harley was on the field day,” Jones says.

At the end of the school year, Harley moved back in with Charleigh. Although it takes up space, Charleigh’s parents are happy to welcome their baby girl, whom Jones describes as happy, outgoing and friendly.

She loves life so much and has the biggest heart,” Jones says. “SheIt’s the sweetest little thing. Charleigh is the strongest and toughest little girl I havehave never known. It’s not thatno matter what shecrosses, she always has a smile on her face.

CharleighShe participates in ballet, cheerleading and gymnastics. She also likes to dress up in fancy costumes, especially Disney princess dresses.

Sheit’s as girly as they come,” Jones says.

Her two favorite subjects are math and art. SheI’m really good at math and love telling people equations,” Jones says. She is also a small artist, and she always draws, paints or does crafts.

Unsurprisingly, with such a personality, Charleigh has no shortage of friends.

She loves everyone in her class,” Jones says. In fact, if you ask her who her best friend is, sheI will literally name each of his classmates.

Riley partners with Speedway Gas Stations, which are raising funds to purchase these giant bears.

They have a limited number of bears, and I wish they had more because there are so many more kids who could enjoy them,” Jones says.

If youIf you’ve ever been to the cashier at a Speedway or surrounding business, the staff member may have asked you if youI would like to donate to Riley. Now you know why.

Sometimes people are reluctant to donate because they don’tI don’t know the impact of their donation,” Jones says. Trust me. ThisIt’s a great cause that makes a huge difference for these childrenLives.”

For more information about the Riley Children’s Foundation, visit