A heart for Riley

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    INDIANAPOLIS — Rosie Tarlton, a graduate of Lapel High School and a sophomore at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, knows all too well the benefits produced at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
    As an infant, she received specialized intensive care at the facility that could not be provided at the hospital in Anderson, where she was born.
    Recently, for the second time, she participated in a traditional fundraiser to give back to the hospital. And she helped set a record in the process.
    IUPUI conducted its annual “Jagathon” dance marathon Saturday, March 4, and Sunday, March 5, to raise money for the Pediatric Research wing of the hospital.
    In its first 14 years, the event had raised more than $410,000, including a then-record $140,000 in 2016. This year, the students and campus organizations came together and shattered that record by raising more than $351,000, a more than 150 percent increase compared to last year.
    Jagathon requires participants to remain standing for 13.1 hours, from 1 p.m. Saturday until 2:06 a.m. Sunday. At the close of the event, the amount raised is revealed to the participants.
    Tarlton, a committee member of last year’s Jagathon, is the director of outreach projects for the executive board and said the moment the dollar amount was revealed was very emotional for her.
    “There are only a few people on the presidential board who know the amount raised throughout the year,” she said. “It’s kept secret from us, and that total reveal is the first time we ever see the number. It’s just crazy to see all our hard work pay off. Our total goal was $200,000, and we just blew that out of the water.”
    Riley Children’s Hospital provides advanced care and is home to some of the best pediatric research in the country; it is part of the Children’s Miracle Network, a group of more than 170 hospitals across the country that treat 17 million children annually. Riley provides care for the most basic of needs as well as for the most difficult and life-threatening ailments children encounter.
    When Tarlton was born, it was found that her body was not getting the oxygen it needed to survive. Unable to tend to her needs, St. John’s Hospital in Anderson, now St. Vincent, transferred her to Riley by ambulance for treatment.
    There, she was diagnosed with three heart ailments and spent several weeks in the Riley Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
    The doctors figured out the medicine combination to help Tarlton’s health but also discovered she had suffered massive hearing loss.
    It is not known if the hearing loss is related to the heart defects with which she was born.
    Tarlton is studying philanthropic studies and hopes to make a career working for non-profit organizations. She said this fundraiser is a way for her to give back to an organization that not only helped her but saves lives every day.
    It’s an effort that is personally rewarding, she said.
    “It is truly an honor,” she said. “I absolutely love doing it, and I can’t imagine anything else that I would spend so much time with. When I saw that dollar amount revealed, it was literally the most emotional thing ever. I know who I’m doing this for and why I’m doing it. I’m giving back to the hospital that saved my life, and I’m doing it for each and every kid.
    “I really can’t put it into words, honestly.”
    For more information on Jagathon and how to donate, visit www.jagathon.iupui.edu.