Beckett Culp: 2024 Riley Champion
“I’m a little excited!” That’s how Beckett Culp from Noblesville, Indiana, describes his reaction to being named a 2024 Riley Champion. The rambunctious 5-year-old, who underwent a liver transplant at Riley Children’s Health in 2022, has drawn attention for his successful toy drive efforts and for his legendary hugs. “He can sense when people are having bad days,” says his dad, Klark Culp. “He’ll go up and hug them, even if he doesn’t know them.”
Beckett’s pediatric gastroenterologist at Riley Children’s, Jean Molleston, M.D., has been on the receiving end of many of those hugs. “He’s the best hugger ever!” she says. Beckett was just 6 months old when a routine checkup led to a rare liver disorder diagnosis: Alpha 1 antritrypsin deficiency. It was already a challenging time for the family, with Klark deployed overseas with the U.S. Air Force. Beckett was referred to Dr. Molleston at Riley for his care. As she expected, Beckett’s health eventually declined, and in April 2022, he was placed on the transplant list. A few months later, in June, his family got the overnight phone call: A donor liver was available.
Riley pediatric surgeon Richard Mangus, M.D., performed the successful transplant surgery. Beckett’s family is still stunned by his transformation. “Now, he looks so healthy and he is growing so fast!” says his mom, Lauren. The Culps are grateful for the deep expertise and kid-friendly atmosphere at Riley, including the way Child Life specialists like Maddie Rodriguez comfort Beckett. “Beckett loves Maddie so much!” says Lauren. “She knows exactly what to do to put a smile on his face.”
Beckett’s family celebrated his 4th birthday with a toy drive for the Riley Cheer Guild. Then, the Culps had the emotion-filled chance to meet the family of Beckett’s organ donor, Hunter Tuzinski, who died at age 7. Both boys shared a love of Hot Wheels, so in memory of Hunter, their families collected thousands of Hot Wheels for kids at Riley and the hospital that treated Hunter. “Doing the toy drives does not compare to the amazing gift we received, but we wanted to do something to give back to other families going through the same thing,” says Lauren.
The Culps’ spirit of giving has impressed Dr. Molleston. “Their enthusiasm and energy about reaching out to the community will make them great Champions,” she says.