The Paper photo by Rick Holtz<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Friday was declared Megan Whitaker Day at Southmont Junior High. Whitaker is standing among her classmates Friday following a school assembly.
The Paper photo by Rick Holtz

Friday was declared Megan Whitaker Day at Southmont Junior High. Whitaker is standing among her classmates Friday following a school assembly.
NEW MARKET - Southmont Junior High honored one of its own Friday. Friday was Megan Whitaker Day at the school.

Friday morning the entire school gathered in the gymnasium to honor Whitaker, 14, as a 2013 Riley Champion presented by Kroger.

"It's really surprising, but exciting," Whitaker said. "All my friends now what I've been through."

Shortly after she was born, doctors discovered a condition called truncus arteriosus in which each of Whitaker's heart chambers had only one blood vessel leading out of it instead of two. She has undergone four open-heart surgeries at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, and also needed other unrelated operations including spinal fusion.

She now teams with her grandparents - Debi and Tony See have each worked at Kroger for more than 20 years - to give back to Riley by helping promote Race for Riley icon sales at Kroger.

She is the daughter of Don and Christy Whitaker of New Market.

Southmont Junior High Principal Mike Sowers said read a proclaimation announcing Whitaker's Day.

"To know what she has gone through, she still comes to school with a positive attitude," Sowers said. "This is no way (the other students) can comprehend what she has gone through. I don't think anyone can comprehend what she has gone through. I really appreciate her attitude."

Riley Champions presented by Kroger is a program that launched five years ago to honor Riley Hospital for Children patients who have inspired communities with their bravery and commitment to help others. Riley Champions reach beyond their own medical challenges to give meaning to their struggles. The 2013 Class of Riley Champions honors only eight Riley patients throughout Indiana.

On Nov. 3, Megan and the Riley Champions were honored on-court at the Indiana Pacers game. On Nov. 4, they received limousine transportation to Lucas Oil Stadium and were honored as Coin Toss Kids at the Indianapolis Colts game. On Nov. 15, they were officially honored as Riley Champions at the Riley annual luncheon in Indianapolis by former Riley Hospital patient and two-time Olympic gold medal soccer player Lauren Cheney.

In addition to the proclamation, Whitaker was presented with a banner to be displayed at the school. She was also surprised with tickets for a VIP experience at the Feb. 13 Indiana Hoosiers basketball game (VIP package presented by Kroger includes two tickets, an on-court experience and pictures before the game, private tour, Indiana University gear, and hospitality passes for free food and drink).