Carmel teen finds joy at Camp Riley


By Mark Ambrogi

Charlie Hadden

Charlie Hadden

Jenni Hadden was concerned about leaving her physically disabled son away from home for the first time at Camp Riley.

There was no need to worry.

“Charlie actually had the time of his life,” the Carmel resident said. “I was worried he was going to miss us.”

Charlie can’t talk, but he gave his mom a message when she went to pick him up.

“He actually pushed me away, like, go away. I’m having fun, mom,” she said. “It was an awesome experience for him.”

Charlie, a 14-year-old Clay Middle School seventh grader, has cerebral palsy and schizencephaly, a rare birth defect that involves clefts in the brain. Charlie, who is adopted, also is unable to walk and must use a wheelchair.

Camp Riley is designed to empower children ages 8 to 18 with physical disabilities by providing life-changing experiences in a traditional camp environment. Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health provides medical staff for Camp Riley, which is held at Bradford Woods in Martinsville.

“I’m one of those moms who is ridiculously overprotective, and I’m not ashamed of it at all,” she said.

Hadden’s friend, familiar with Camp Riley, insisted she check it out last year.

Hadden gave the third degree to the Camp Riley staffer when dropping Charlie off last year, asking numerous questions.

“I probably drove him insane, but I don’t care, that’s my son, and I’m very worried about his safety,” Hadden said. “He put my mind to rest. I felt assured enough that there would be quality people taking care of him.”

Swimming was his favorite activity, Hadden said.

“Every time we talk about it, he is just extremely happy,” Hadden said.

Naturally, Charlie will be going again this summer.

The staff-to-camper ratio never exceeds 1 to 3. There are five Camp Riley sessions offered during a six-week span. Sessions activities such as swimming, hiking, horseback riding, vertical climbing, canoeing, art projects and more. Olympics is the theme for this summer’s camps.

Registration for camp is now open. For more, visit