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Drew Barnes

Drew Barnes enjoys being silly sometimes. He also loves to build things, whether with Magna-Tiles or paper towel rolls and tape.

Drew was referred to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health with congenital heart disease a day after his birth in December 2013 to Evansville residents Ben and Deidre Barnes. His heart operation at just 4 days old was the first of six surgeries.

"Through it all, Drew is still the funny, thoughtful, and energetic kid he's always been," says Riley Pediatric Cardiologist Mark Ayers, M.D., who implanted a pacemaker just before Drew turned 5. "He has such a positive spirit, even in the face of adversity."

Drew's device transmits data to Riley's Pacemaker Clinic quarterly, supplementing his twice-yearly checkups. But Drew's parents say people, more than technology, make Riley a special place.

Drew Barnes

Drew's care team also includes Riley Cardiothoracic Surgeon Mark Rodefeld, M.D., and Riley Pediatric Cardiologist Ryan Alexy, M.D. Everyone at Riley who comes into contact with Drew "all care about him like he's their own, and they care about us a family just as much," Deidre says. "Riley gives us years with these kids that we love."

Drew is a second-grader at Resurrection Catholic School, which teaches philanthropy by giving each first-grader $5 to support an organization or activity. Drew's big brother and sister gave their money to Riley and Drew followed suit last year. The family has made notecards and prayer stones for donors to raise additional funds. "He and his entire family really embody the spirit of Riley Champions," says Dr. Ayers, who nominated Drew for the Champions program.

Deidre admires her son's bravery, even when he feels anxious. "There are a few things he can't do, but to him it probably feels like a lot," she says. "I want him to feel as normal as possible and know that he can do whatever he wants to do."

"It's great that they saved my life," Drew says of Riley. "It's a great hospital and I'm so glad they picked me to be a Champion. Am I going to be famous?" To his friends at Riley, he already is.