Previously known as the James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Association (RMA), the foundation was established in 1921 to honor the memory of the Indiana poet and to build Riley Hospital for Children. Riley Children’s Foundation (RCF) supports Riley Hospital (also known as Riley Children’s Health, which since 2016 has been part of IU Health), Camp Riley in BRADFORD WOODS, and owns the James Whitcomb Riley Home on Lockerbie Street in Indianapolis.

James Whitcomb Riley, ca. 1914 Credit: The Bretzman Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

Shortly after famed Hoosier poet, James Whitcomb Riley died on July 22, 1916, his prominent friends gathered to find a way to honor his memory. They formed the James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Committee. After Dr. Lafayette Page, an INDIANA UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE (IUSM) faculty member, proposed the idea of a children’s hospital, committee members formally announced their intention to build such a facility in 1917.

At this time, Long Hospital, which was part of IUSM, was the only hospital in Indiana that received pediatric patients, and it had only 12 beds set aside for this purpose. The Riley Hospital Committee resumed work following the three-year interruption of World War I, created the James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Association on December 11, 1920, and officially incorporated on April 9, 1921.

In 1921, RMA joined with the Indiana University (IU) Board of Trustees and the Indiana Child Welfare Association to propose legislation enacted by the Indiana General Assembly to provide funding for the building and operation of the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children as an IUSM clinical facility. RMA and the IU Board of Trustees also established a Joint Executive Committee composed of equal members from RMA and the Indiana University Board of Trustees to oversee the fundraising, building, and operation of the hospital. The James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children was completed and dedicated October 7, 1924, Riley’s birthday, and opened on November 19, 1924.

Early RMA leaders included Josiah Kirby Lilly Sr., who served as organizational president (1920–1921), and Hugh McKennan Landon, an Indianapolis banker and businessman who served as first president (1921–1947). James W. Carr, executive secretary (1922–1962), played a key role overseeing RMA’s early operations and priorities. IU presidents William Lowe Bryan and Herman B Wells actively engaged in developing Riley Hospital in an overall plan to extend the reach and prestige of IUSM.

Following the example of these early leaders, those who followed have not only supported hospital expansion and growth through several phases of construction but also have been committed to funding patient care, research, and education. The Riley Memorial Association was renamed Riley Children’s Foundation in 2003.

Major hospital fundraising campaigns continue to rely on historic partnerships with the State of Indiana, Indiana University, and other local and statewide corporate and community partners. In 1997, Riley Hospital for Children affiliated with Clarian Health Partners; in 2011, Clarian Health Partners aligned under the Indiana University Health name; and in 2016, Riley Hospital for Children became Riley Children’s Health.

Revised March 2021

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