Carmel girls to raise money for Riley Hospital at Farmer’s Market


By Chris Bavender

“Gavin is a really good brother and I would love it if they would come and help us.”

Simple, yet powerful words from a 7-year-old Carmel girl who – along with her best friend – has masterminded an idea to raise money for Riley Children’s Hospital.

Because of the care her brother, Gavin, received at Riley, big sister Ally wanted to do something in return for the hospital. She and best friend, Riley Abernathy, decided initially to do a neighborhood lemonade stand. But, then, they thought they needed something bigger to reach more people. That led to IU North agreeing to let the girls use their booth space at the Carmel Farmer’s market Aug. 23rd.

“I wanted to help do something for Riley because they did something for me and my family,” Ally Swearingen said.

Back in May, 2-year-old Gavin fell from a swing at the family home and was airlifted from Riley North to the downtown Riley facility.

“He hit his head and they found he had suffered a large traumatic brain injury and so they took him by Lifeline to Riley downtown and did emergency craniotomy,” mom Amanda Swearingen said. “They take the  skull off and leave it off – in his case, for a couple of weeks – to let pressure go down and then they put it back on and he’s been in recovery ever since.”

Gavin’s initial prognosis was bleak according to Amanda.

“When they came to us initially they said that, judging by the scan, he could be vegetative and not able to walk, talk or eat,” she said. “It did end up that he was paralyzed on his right side pretty much completely – right arm and right leg – and he had to relearn to walk, and relearn to swallow. He also had a vision cut – from middle to the right on both eyes he is now blind – so he is adjusting to that.”

But Amanda said Gavin is adapting well and is a “happy boy.”

“When you meet him – aside from the fact he has a giant scar on his head because he had to have about 94 stitches in his head – he is just a sweet 2-year-old boy,” she said.

The goal for the Farmer’s Market – raise $1,000 to dedicate a little red wagon for Riley with a license plate with Gavin’s nickname – Moose. The wagons are used by the children to move around the hospital in style.

“She just has the biggest heart and is the sweetest 7-year-old you could imagine,” Amanda said. “She also collected pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald house because we had a room there. She also made collection jars out of empty paint cans with Gavin’s picture on them to collect more tabs that she plans to take to Riley in September.”

Ally and Riley’s booth at the Farmer’s Market will sell snacks and coffee, and will also feature a raffle for items such as signed Sarah Fisher crew shirts and Butler signed apparel. Collection cans will also be on hand for pop tabs.

“We just talked to people we knew locally and friends of people at work and sent out a Facebook message and emails and just started collecting things,” Amanda said. “It happened really fast – we only decided to do this a week ago. We have just been flooded with love from so many – even people we don’t know – when Gavin was hurt and we just want to give something back.”

As for Gavin – he’s doing well, Amanda said.

“He does therapy at Riley North now – about seven appointments a week but he all that he is doing is just miraculous,” she said. “He’s really surprising all of his doctors – and us. He just keeps doing better and better than that what anyone initially thought.”

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