Local Riley kid gives back in unique way


TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Dixie Bee Elementary School revealed a big surprise Friday morning. It was a surprise one of their own students made happen to give back to the Riley Hospital for Children.

Callista Dillion is a 3rd grader at Dixie Bee Elementary. Three years ago, she was diagnosed with scleroderma after her parents noticed there was a spot on her eye that wasn’t going away. This is an auto-immune disease where cells start making collagen as if there was an injury that needs repairing.

The cells do not turn off like they should so there is a surplus of collagen. The extra collagen in the tissues prevents the body’s organs from functioning normally. The severity of the disease varies with each case. It’s a life-long disease that currently has no cure.

Callista says her Mom helped take away the pain during her weekly treatments at Riley Hospital for Children.

“She would say ‘Do you want her to count to 100 and then do it?’ And then she would stick the needle in at 10 so that would help me a lot,” said Dillion.

She also found strength riding in the infamous red wagons at each appointment. The wagon was so important to her that she wanted to bring that same joy to other Riley kids.

“Riley I thought gave a lot to me because when they did my treatment and everything,” said Dillion. “I thought it would be nice to give money back for a wagon.”

Over the past year, Callista raised $1,924 to purchase a new wagon for the Riley Hospital’s north campus where she was treated. The north location has a shortage of wagons according to Riley’s Grateful Family Officer Chelsea Cantu.

Callista’s efforts turned into reality this morning as the wagon was revealed at her school’s assembly.

She even decorated the license plate which is the first time Riley has used a patient’s artwork on a wagon.

“You get extra plates with your original drawing here,” said Cantu to Callista. “This really touched my heart when I saw what you had written on there so I hope you enjoy these.”

Cantu is amazed by Callista’s perseverance.

“It would be very easy for her to focus on her own medical journey but the fact that she’s devoted so much of her time to help other Riley kids and she knows the power of the wagon,” said Cantu.

Callista has one request for those interested in donating to make every Riley kids’ journey a smooth ride.

“If you have someone that goes to Riley and they need a wagon there will be more wagons than one so they could have a little more wagons so people can ride in the wagons,” said Dillion.

Callista’s parents say she seems to be in remission for now, although this is a lifelong illness. If you would like to donate money for more wagons you can contact Riley’s Wagon Program at (317) 634-4474. If you would like to donate money in Callista’s name or to the hospital in general, contact Riley Hospital for Children at: http://www.rileykids.org/ways-to-give/individual-giving.html?referrer=http://rileykids.org/#.WAp_a-UrLcs