"Smiley" Riley is a Reason to Believe

No child wants to spend the holidays in the hospital. But last November, 5-year-old Riley had to undergo a stem cell transplant, one of the hardest parts of his cancer treatment.

"It was such a difficult time, but the staff lifted his spirits and helped ease his pain in so many ways," says Riley's mom, Ashley. There was the surprise visit from Spiderman, the magical Frozen theme on the oncology unit and his special bond with Mr. Joe, a Child Life specialist.

Riley made a "smiley Christmas Tree" on his door with paper ornaments to thank the doctors, nurses and other staff who cared for him.

"He would tell me to add more and more people — he really treasured it," says Ashley.

Riley and his family were overjoyed when he went home five days before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, he left out cookies for Santa and read The Night Before Christmas with his grandmother.

"It was a true miracle that our Smiley Riley was home in time for Christmas," recalls Ashley. "Seeing all four of my boys opening presents the next morning is a memory that I will hold forever in my heart."

In February, Riley was declared cancer-free. The now energetic 6-year-old loves to play baseball with his brothers, build Legos and paint.

"Riley's care team saved him from a cancer that wreaked havoc on his body," Ashley says. "They gave us hope, love and a commitment to fight beside us. We are forever grateful to Children’s National!"

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