A reminder of Ryan White's legacy
A sculpture of Riley kid and AIDS activist Ryan White was reinstalled at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health last month after a period of construction. The sculpture’s location is off the main lobby, intended to be a place where people can go to reflect.
For Amy Carroll Balcius and Jason Barnaby, the rededication ceremony was an opportunity to reflect on Ryan’s remarkable impact.
Amy remembers visiting Riley when the sculpture was installed. She and Jason were part of the founding Executive Council for Indiana University Dance Marathon (IUDM), which began in 1991 in Ryan’s memory.
Ryan had hemophilia and contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion. The teenager from Kokomo insisted upon receiving treatment at Riley Hospital. He also spoke out against the enormous stigma that existed around an AIDS diagnosis. “He was the embodiment of courage and hope for people around him,” Jason said.
Ryan died just a few months before he was set to start classes at Indiana University. Jill Stewart-Waibel, Ryan’s good friend and an IU student, went to the university’s administration with an idea of honoring his memory. She gathered 12 other students, including Amy and Jason, to lead the first Indiana University Dance Marathon. The group hoped to raise enough money to fund Riley’s infectious disease center, which would be named for Ryan. “We thought it would take us forever to fund something like that,” Amy recalled.
None of those students predicted what happened next. Fueled by Ryan’s legacy, IUDM participants have raised more than $50 million for Riley over the past 33 years. The Ryan White Center for Infectious Disease and its director are fully funded through endowments established by IUDM. Dance Marathon fundraisers now take place on over 300 campuses throughout North America each year, including over 60 Indiana schools that raise money for Riley.
“Dance Marathons are part of Ryan’s legacy,” Amy shared. She and several other members of the first IUDM Executive Council were eager to celebrate that legacy through the sculpture rededication. “We’ve all had a front row seat to what has unfolded and changed thousands of lives over the past thirty years.” In addition to staying engaged with IUDM, Amy serves on Riley Children’s Foundation’s Board of Governors.
Amy notes that the bulk of Dance Marathon fundraising comes from smaller gifts – the average donation in the 2021-2022 school year was $55. But when students discover a passion for Riley and spark that same passion among their networks, those donations add up to make a massive difference. “It’s with profound gratitude that I thank people for supporting these students,” Amy said. “Dance Marathon continues to be such a conduit for good.”
Jason adds, “I don’t find many causes in the world today where you can give and it affects the amount of hope people have. Dance Marathon is one of those.”