Warren-area girl’s card design helps light Christmas season

Dalaney Vickrey displays the Christmas card and calendar page she designed for Riley Hospital for Children.
Dalaney Vickrey displays the Christmas card and calendar page she designed for Riley Hospital for Children. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Dec. 3, 2012.

When the Christmas cards start flying from mailbox to mailbox this season, Dalaney Vickrey's name is likely to be on a good number of them.

Not as the signer, but as the designer.

The 11-year-old, who lives on a livestock farm near Warren with parents Bret and Carin and younger brother Owen, created one of the five designs being offered on this year's Riley Holiday Cards.

Working on the card designs was one way she passed the time during an 18-day stay this fall at Riley Hospital for Children, one of many times she's used art to occupy herself during her treatments for cystic fibrosis.

"I can't tell you how many times we had confetti everywhere because she was cutting paper in little pieces," her mom says, remembering the art projects Dalaney engaged in while sitting through many half-hour treatments at home.

This is the first time, though, that she's been involved in the card program at Riley, a project suggested to her by the hospital's child life specialist. Her winning card depicts a Christmas tree loaded in a red Riley wagon being pulled through the snow by a person decked out in a winter hat, scarf and mittens.

"The person and the tree and the wagon and the wheels are foam," Dalaney explains "The background is paint."
"She actually submitted two, and then they vote," Carin adds.

Riley doctors, board members and others sifted through the many designs submitted by Riley patients, then chose five to make into cards. The Christmas cards can be ordered online at www.riley holidaycards.com.

Dalaney, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 14 months, is a frequent visitor at Riley.

"We go every three months for a regular checkup," Carin explains. "If she's sick, she goes into the hospital and stays. That time, she was in for 18 days."

"I got really sick and I was wheezing," Dalaney adds.

After her Christmas card design was declared a winner, Dalaney was also invited to draw a design for the Riley Hospital 2013 calendar that's handed out to the Indianapolis hospital's donors. She used pencils and markers to create a spring scene for the month of April.
Her accomplishment at Riley is far from the only mark she's made in the art world. A decorative wooden mat - for which she cut, sanded, painted, drilled and screwed pieces of wood - was displayed at iAB financial bank in Warren; another piece won grand champion at the Huntington County 4-H Fair and took first place at the Indiana State Fair; and she's had work in the Huntington County schools' ArtsExpress.

"She's always been very creative," her mom says.

She's also very athletic, participating in cross country, basketball and track at her former school, Lancaster Elementary, and now at Southern Wells School, where she's a sixth-grader.

Dealing with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that makes her vulnerable to lung infections, sometimes interferes with basketball, she says, "but not much."

And then there's the livestock. Dalaney, an active member of the Pork Chop 4-H Club, has been showing hogs since she was 4.

"She helps birth them out," Carin says. "She's in the barn from the first."

She also shows heifers and goats, both in 4-H and other shows - and she has an armful of champion banners to show for her efforts.

While she's hoping for a career as a veterinarian, Dalaney is also working to improve the future for those with cystic fibrosis.

She and her family participate in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Great Strides Walk each year in Fort Wayne, raising $13,000 for the foundation this year and $18,000 in 2011. That's a lot of money for one family to raise, and much of it comes from the pigs.

"We host a show pig sale online for part of it," Carin explains. "A Passion for Purple Sale."

The Vickreys contact breeders, asking them to put a pig in the sale and donate half the proceeds to the foundation. Many of the breeders donate all of their proceeds, she says.

The Vickreys also sponsor bake sales, a fund-raiser at East of Chicago Pizza in Warren, and other fund-raisers.

"We've been involved since she was diagnosed," Carin says. "We've walked every year. Anything to raise money for cystic fibrosis."