Riley Radio Days Happening This Week

Blessed by the support they received when their children had to go to Riley Hospital for medical care, business partners Mike Bergen and Alan Alderfer started the Kosciusko County Riley Kids Fund in 2011 to help other families with the expenses of taking their kids to Riley.
Thursday and Friday during the annual Riley Radio Days on 107.3 WRSW, the community will be able to donate to the Riley Fund to help local families who have kids there. The Fund is part of the Kosciusko County Community Foundation.
“We’ve had over $470,000 in donations to date, so hopefully this time we will go over $500,000,” Bergen said.
Mike’s son, Ben, was a patient at Riley in 2006. He had a condition called coarctation of the aorta, which is a narrowing of the aorta, and had surgery at Riley to correct it.
Ben was in intensive care for about five days. At Riley, the pediatric intensive care unit rooms all have glass walls so when anyone walks in or out, they can see into all the rooms. Mike and his wife were both there, never leaving him by himself. But one of the things that struck Mike was how many of the rooms he never saw a parent in.
“It really kind of made me mad at first when I saw that. But then, talking to the nurses and things, they helped me put it into perspective, and realize how lucky we were to be able to be there all the time,” Mike said.
Alan was back in Warsaw taking care of the business, allowing Mike to be down at Riley. Other families don’t have the luxury of being off work for very long while their child is in the hospital or may not have the money to travel back and forth from Kosciusko County to Indianapolis.
A couple of years later, Alan’s daughter, Katherine, was diagnosed with Juvenile Dermatomyositis. While Ben had been in the hospital a week, Katherine has made multiple trips to Riley over about six years, sometimes for multiple days or weeks. Alan and his wife, Kristine, were there all the time, and Mike ran their business while Alan was away.
“We were amazed also by the outpouring of support that we got. People were dropping off gas cards. People were sticking envelopes with $100 bills just through our mail slot without even knowing who it was or anything,” Mike recalled.
Alan and Mike talked about how amazing the community support was for their families. It led to a discussion about how they could share that with the community in general.
“So we got the idea of starting a fund with the Community Foundation just to help people get back and forth from Riley because it’s expensive. It’s 108 miles or so one way there and it’s incredibly expensive. If you have a sick kid, you have to keep your health insurance so you’ve got to keep your job, so it gets tricky,” Mike said.
Alan said, “I think Mike and I have both realized how expensive it is to have a sick child. When (Mike and I) had our sick children, we were blessed to be able to take off work and still get paid. Most people that go have to take off work, so all we’re trying to do is take off a little bit of the burden with the travel costs and their food, being able to eat.”
He said at a Christmas party, he learned one of his cousin’s sons was taking their child back and forth to Riley and using the Riley Kids Fund. “I thought that was pretty neat,” Alan said.
“Not only are we trying to raise money for these families, but the other thing we’re trying to do is raise awareness that there is help available for these families,” he continued.
Riley Kids Fund is available to anyone in Kosciusko County, with the exception of Mike’s and Alan’s families. Alan said they didn’t want anyone to think they were doing it for themselves, so they intentionally disallowed themselves from receiving any help from the Fund.
If anyone wants to get help from the Fund, they can call the Help Center at 574-372-3500.
Mike and Alan’s original idea for the Fund was to find 1,000 people to give them $100, and it took off from there.
“I think, right now, around 50 or 60 families a year get help from the KC Riley Kids Fund. Half of the money stays here, and half of the money goes down to Riley to support the hospital,” Mike said. “Right now, it’s mainly gas cards and food cards. About two-thirds is gas cards and one-third is food cards.”
Each year during Riley Radio Days, Mike said they never really set a goal but always want to raise more than the year before. In 2015, the event raised over $60,000.
“We don’t ever go into this with a goal like that. We go in with whatever the community wants to support us (with), that’s what we’re going to raise. This is the community’s fund, this isn’t our goal. This is if the community wants to help these families, and they have,” Alan said.
Mike said the support has been “amazing.” Over the last five years, they’ve had school kids bring in change, Explorer Van employees bring in bags of change and many others with interesting stories give to the fund. One year a cow was donated and it was auctioned off with proceeds going to the Fund.
During Riley Radio Days Thursday and Friday, people can drop off their donations at the radio station or call 268-HOPE. Organizations like the Tri Kappa Sorority, Optimist and Kiwanis Clubs, along with high school students, help answer the phones. Alan said there’s big community support for the event and they couldn’t do it without them.
The event, which is 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. both days, features 12 local families talking about their Riley story on-air. People sharing their stories this year include Andy McCleary, Rod and Shana Mayer, Adam Clemens, Julia Moore and Rick and Diane Kerlin.
“We’ve been very blessed with having donations from service clubs and foundations – the Optimist Club, the Kiwanis Club, the Bertsch Family Charitable Foundation. Spike’s & Noa Noa are donating for a matching hour,” Alan said.
During a matching hour, donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to a certain amount in that hour. There’s a matching hour about every hour of the event, Mike and Alan said.
For more information, visit:
• 107.3 WRSW at
• KC Riley Kids Fund at
• Riley Hospital for Children at
• Alderfer Bergen & Co. at