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Recreational Therapy Inspires Riley

Meet Riley

The diagnosis included a C7/C8 spinal nerve injury, and involved the word “quadriplegic.” The nerves traveling from Riley’s lower neck to her body were damaged and she couldn’t move her legs unassisted. Riley found hope, a future career and the rehabilitation and support services she needed at Shriners Children's.

She came to Shriners Children’s as a young teen for the Chicago hospital’s spinal cord injury (SCI) rehabilitation program, which focuses solely on pediatric care, providing resources and right-sized equipment for children who sustain an SCI and often need medical support and specialized services to recover.

The 197,000 square-foot facility on Chicago’s outskirts became a home away from home for Riley, who sustained a spinal cord injury during a surgical procedure on her neck at another hospital. Caring staff members at Shriners Children's Chicago provided her not just medical care and life skills training, but opportunities for therapy of all kinds in large indoor- and outdoor-accessible areas.

Riley would be an inpatient and outpatient for more than eight years. “I was a spinal cord injury rehabilitation patient where I received physical, occupational and recreational therapy,” Riley, now 27, is a passionate advocate for people with disabilities. She gravitated toward recreational therapy while at the Chicago hospital. “I was involved in their teen sports camp twice as well as other events and excursions.”

While Shriners Children's obviously provided me with the physical and emotional tools to be as independent as possible, they also instilled a confidence in me that I could have a fulfilling life as a disabled person.
Riley, Chicago

Amanda Hogle, CRTS, remembers Riley as one of her first patients when she joined the hospital staff. “Riley has always been active and involved in a variety of activities in her community and with her family,” said Hogle. The teen patient worked as a junior counselor with Hogle when she attended sports camp for the second time. “They invited me to so many outings and camps where I really got to see what was available to me. The attitude that Shriners Hospitals’ (staff) have makes me want to say ‘yes’ to new experiences. They also taught me how important community is, which is why having friends with disabilities is so crucial for me.”

Riley went on to earn a college degree in therapeutic recreation. The personable girl with a natural affinity for advocacy, chose her course of study so she could help others with disabilities be able to participate in their communities. She even completed an internship at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Currently Riley is pursuing her master’s in disability studies. “With that degree, I would love to start a nonprofit that trains people on how to talk about disability history, culture and etiquette so that they could take that knowledge to educate their local community.”

She has also traveled extensively to destinations such as the Grand Canyon and Washington, D.C., sometimes with friends she met in an online leadership program. “Riley has such an infectiously positive and easy going personality. She faced a lot of challenges and overcame so many because of her positive attitude and determination," said Hogle. "As much as Riley is grateful for the care that Shriners Children's provided her, I am grateful to her for her trust and for everything that she taught me.”

Meet Riley

Member of Patient Alumni Network

Riley by water

Riley is an advocate for others with disabilities.

Riley playing adaptive softball

Riley takes a swing at adaptive softball.

Riley adaptive cycling

She tried adaptive cycling at Chicago's SCI Sports Camp.

Excellence in Care


Children admitted annually for SCI in the U.S.

Spinal Cord Injury Care

participants in sci long term outcome study

Next steps

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