HANCOCK COUNTY — Garrett Adams is used to moving fast.
So when the go-kart racer, now 12, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease a year and a half ago and ordered to sit still for long hours during drug infusions at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, the Greenfield boy quickly grew tired of the games and movies meant to entertain patients. But where some youngsters might have complained, Garrett set out to solve the problem.
Out of those long hours was born a campaign Garrett led that raised $30,000 for new entertainment for the hospital’s gastroenterology unit, where Garrett received treatment for the chronic inflammatory disease affecting his digestive tract. In recognition of the boy’s selflessness, the Eastern Hancock Middle School seventh-grader was selected as a 2017 Riley Champion, an honor bestowed on patients who give back to the hospital that helped save their lives.
For Garrett, giving back started with a call-out to friends and family members for donations. But he didn’t stop there. Garrett and his dad, Mike Adams, began making and selling custom pens. Then, catching Garrett’s enthusiasm, his family held a bowling fundraiser. In the months that followed, proceeds from the family’s efforts filled the infusion center with new games and toys.
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The Adamses had money left over from the fundraisers, so they talked to the Riley Hospital Foundation in hopes of finding a worthy cause.
They found it in a fund supporting the hiring of a child-life specialist, a kind of therapist who can help kids understand and be less nervous about their treatments, for the gastroenterology unit, Garrett said.
Dr. Steven Steiner, who treated Garrett, said he couldn’t be more proud of the young boy’s efforts to turn a negative experience into a positive effort to help others.
“I am always amazed at the resilience and positive attitude that so many of our pediatric Crohn’s patients display, and Garrett is a shining example,” he wrote in a press release. “I’m confident that no matter where he ends up, he will be a positive influence on all those who come in contact with him.”
Garrett is one of eight people named Riley Champions this year.
“It makes me very happy,” he said. “I’m thankful for what they’ve done for me, and I’ve had a lot of new experiences because of the Riley Champions.”
One of those was to walk onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Riley Champions were greeted by Colts players and coaches and stood just feet away from the pregame coin toss.
Though the stadium impressed Garrett, he was more overwhelmed by the size of the players, especially in all their pads and gear.
“Andrew Luck is twice my size,” he said. “They’re all extremely tall.”
Garrett is used to being around a different type of athlete. He’s been racing go-karts for about four years, and he’s familiar with several Indy Car drivers. Of course, the one he knows best is his grandfather, Mark Dismore, who owns New Castle Motor Sports Park, which offered Garrett’s pens for sale.
Garrett’s positive attitude has been invaluable throughout his time at Riley Hospital, said his mother, Esteina Adams. She watched her son power through, even when his illness made things tough.
“He had a fever of 103 every day, and he would go to school,” she said. “He has been the true definition of a trooper throughout this experience. And to turn around and give back to everyone else, I’m very proud of him.”
Esteina Adams gets choked up when she talks about what Garrett has been through, first being diagnosed with juvenile arthritis and then Crohn’s Disease, but her pride shines through when she talks about what Garrett’s been able to do for others while fighting his own battle.
Garrett’s next goal is to raise $50,000 in support of a smartphone app for kids and parents dealing with gastrointestinal illnesses, an item that is on the Riley Foundation’s wish list, he said.
In the future, he hopes to be able to raise $300,000 for an endowment fund to support the child-life specialist’s salary forever, he said — dad Mike Adams is quick to remind him that’s a very big amount of money, but Garrett is undaunted.
After all, look how far he’s come so far.
Garrett Adams, 12, a seventh-grader at Eastern Hancock Middle School, was recently named as a Riley Champion for his efforts to raise money for Riley Hospital for Children. Garrett is continuing to raise money for the hospital.
A bowling fundraiser hosted by Garrett and his family will be held 6 to 10 p.m. Feb. 10 at Strike Force Lanes, 1539 W. Main St., Greenfield. To sign up or get more information, contact Esteina Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.