Puzzles, dolls, candy and more sit right at each child’s eye level.
The moment of making the big decision to buy just the right item has arrived. It can be exhilarating yet overwhelming with so many choices.
But not for Torey McGuire. He knows exactly what he wants.
“Beats headphones,” he immediately replies.
The 15-year-old has been saving for them. He’s worked hard and is more than halfway to reaching his goal with $178.
“We currently have items available ranging from $5 to $350,” said Kellee Clevenger. “It’s about to get super exciting for Torey and others.”
The merchandise Clevenger stocks isn’t housed in a department store or toy shop. It’s on the Kidney Ka$h Kart, a rolling retail cart that makes its way around the dialysis unit at Riley Hospital for Children once each week.
The Kidney Ka$h concept came from Clevenger, an educational liaison for the Riley School Program; the name came from Jha’Vion, a “Riley kid” pediatric dialysis patient. Because four-to-six-hour days spent in the dialysis unit can be especially long for children to remain in bed, Clevenger wanted to create an interactive way to help patients pass the time while also helping them learn new skills and rewarding them for positive behavior.
“We wanted to motivate patients to do the right things,” said Clevenger. “It’s about providing them with incentives to be healthy, finish their school work and be kind to others in a fun way.”
The approach is working for McGuire and others. Torey’s mother, Keyiana, is excited by the difference it’s making for her son.
“He’s turned into a whole new person,” she said.
Before the launch of Kidney Ka$h, McGuire, a Ben Davis High School freshman, wouldn’t bring his backpack to Riley to tackle school assignments during treatments. Clevenger tried to encourage McGuire to finish his homework while receiving treatments. But to no avail.
“They went round and round,” said Keyiana.
Until Kidney Ka$h. McGuire now brings his supplies and works one-on-one with Clevenger to keep up with his studies.
“He has so much more interest in doing school time now,” said Clevenger. “The program has given him an extra boost.”
McGuire’s interest in doing homework is paying off, earning him $5 each visit toward the Beats. He and fellow patients earn additional Kidney Ka$h through regular school attendance, earning good grades and showing respect to the nursing staff. Being a good dialysis friend by saying hello and being kind to fellow patients also nets Kidney Ka$h.
But there’s more to Kidney Ka$h than fun and games. There are valuable lessons around responsibility.
Clevenger and the pediatric patients discuss examples like paying rent to help them gain greater insights around budgeting.
“I think of it as real life,” said McGuire. “It’s about paying the bills like an adult.”
Keyiana marvels at Torey’s focus and determination in amassing savings for the Beats.
“This is good, because I couldn’t get him to save $2 before,” Keyiana shared. “Now, he’s focused on saving everything for them.”
Kidney Ka$h is also inspiring lessons around generosity, with patients purchasing items for and donating their Ka$h to others. A dialysis patient celebrated her 16th birthday by buying snacks for a fellow patient to enjoy.
Donations from Regions Bank and the nonprofit Riley Cheer Guild enable the Kidney Ka$h Kart to stock merchandise that appeals to patients. The Riley and Regions partnership began in 2010 through fundraising benefitting Dance Marathons. Since then, Indiana Regions associates and customers have raised more than $90,000 and donated supplies to the Riley School Program.
Beyond its donation for the Kidney Ka$h Kart, Regions provides journals for pediatric patients to monitor their fluid intake on days they aren’t at Riley. The bank also provides mock checkbooks for patients to pay for their purchases. For many, it’s the first time they’ve written a check or really thought about money management.
“We’re covering everything from basic money counting with our youngest patients to goal-setting with older ones,” said Clevenger.
Supporting Riley is a personally meaningful cause for Joe Snyder, a Credit Products Portfolio Manager for Regions in Indianapolis. Snyder, a former “Riley kid” himself, faced challenging odds as a premature baby. He was diagnosed with respiratory distress syndrome and a heart condition requiring treatment until age 9. Snyder proudly donates to the Riley annual campaign.
“I know how Riley made my parents feel,” said Snyder. “It gave them hope. If a place offers comfort to your loved ones, why wouldn’t you support them?”
Like Snyder, Torey McGuire’s health challenges started early. His dialysis treatments began following the removal of both kidneys at age 3 from a bilateral Wilms tumor. His grandmother donated a kidney, which offered hope of a healthier future – until the kidney failed in late 2018. He returned to Riley in January 2019 to resume dialysis.
But if you think McGuire’s diagnosis discourages him, think again. He wears a constant smile, loves playing and watching basketball and is an avid skater. He also enjoys taking care of his four siblings. “I like to cook for them,” said McGuire.
Keyiana knows the road ahead may not always be easy for Torey. He’ll likely have to wait at least two years for another transplant.
“We take it day by day,” she said. “But we’ve come a long way.”
And if Torey’s determination in earning the Beats headphones is any indication, the odds sure seem to be in his favor.
As for Clevenger, she’ll continue to sit with Torey and help him with this homework. She’s also looking ahead to the holiday season with plans to expand the Kidney Ka$h Kart’s merchandise options.
Regions is on board to lend support as the program grows.
“Investing in the Kidney Ka$h program offers an opportunity to build on our 10-year partnership with Riley,” said Schiela Peña, Indiana Community Relations Officer for Regions. “We can help empower patients to think about saving for the future in a unique and fun way.”
Beyond financial education, Clevenger points to empowerment as one of the key benefits of Kidney Ka$h.
“Our patients have little control over anything while they’re here for treatment,” said Clevenger. “This is about giving them ownership over something. We can create a more positive experience for them.”