Corona del Mar High junior gives back to hospital that saved his life

Bryson White, left, Bodie Staples, Bryce Roberts and Riley Meunier hold a check for $2,650 they raised for CHOC.
Bryson White, left, Bodie Staples, Bryce Roberts and Riley Meunier, all students at Corona del Mar High School and part of CdM for CHOC, hold a check for $2,650 they raised for Children’s Hospital of Orange County.
(James Carbone)

Riley Meunier doesn’t remember the life-saving procedure he underwent at Children’s Hospital of Orange County just before his first birthday.

But the Corona del Mar High junior, now 17, still believes in paying it forward.

As an infant Riley was diagnosed with Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, a rare immunodeficiency disease. He was fortunate that his older sister, Sydney, just 2 years old herself at the time, was a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant.

Riley stayed at CHOC for about 100 days back then, said his mother, Amy Meunier. It took him and some friends only slightly longer than that to raise $2,650 for the hospital this year.


Riley started a CdM for CHOC club on-campus, with the goal of giving to the hospital. The club, which had CdM English teacher Shelly Bergan as an adviser, grew to more than 20 members.

Riley Meunier sits beside a window at Children's Hospital of Orange.
CdM junior Riley Meunier sits beside a window at Children’s Hospital of Orange on Wednesday.
(James Carbone)

“We started in October, made a couple of posters and put them around campus,” Riley Meunier said. “We had meetings once or twice a month.”

The money raised, via a GoFundMe, was officially donated during a visit to CHOC on Wednesday evening.

“It feels really good to make a difference in other kids’ lives, raise awareness for something that I had to go through that I didn’t even know I went through,” Riley Meunier said. “Overall, it felt good to help others and put a smile on people’s faces.”

Some of his longtime friends — club vice president Bodie Staples, secretary Bryson White and treasurer Bryce Roberts — went with Riley to deliver the giant check. All are also juniors at CdM.

“We’re trying to get it even bigger next year, get it to $5,000 next year,” Bodie said. “Since we’re going to be seniors next year, we want to pass it on, so we can continue it at CdM.”

Colleen Torres from the CHOC Foundation gives gift bags to the students of CdM for CHOC.
Colleen Torres from the CHOC Foundation gives gift bags to the students of CdM for CHOC on Wednesday.
(James Carbone)

The students talked to Colleen Torres, with the CHOC Foundation, about partnering with CHOC during spirit days on campus next year to increase visibility.

Torres, who was on hand Wednesday to accept the donation, gave gift bags for the students to take back to campus as “thank you” gifts. She said the money will go toward the hospital’s greatest needs, including pillars like supporting families that are in care and groundbreaking research.

“Not just having the parental support but also having the kids wanting to lead forward, that’s huge,” Torres said. “Sometimes you get kids who do periodic or seasonal fundraising, but to have a kid like Riley who not only has been doing it all these years but is actually starting clubs at his school? That means so much to us. He’s developing advocacy, and he’s really bringing his friends along with his journey and making them a part of the CHOC journey too. We’re really proud to be able to work with amazing advocates like him.”

Amy Meunier said she and her son, who still has scars on his chest and neck from the bone marrow transplant, try to do something every Jan. 24 — the anniversary of the transplant — to commemorate the occasion and celebrate life. This year, they went to Disneyland.

Riley Meunier celebrated his first birthday at CHOC following a bone marrow transplant in 2007.
(Courtesy of Amy Meunier)

They would also go back each year to celebrate people at the hospital, with events like a toy drive or a breakfast for the nurses. She is proud that Riley is now making a difference on his own volition.

Now if only he didn’t bicker so much with his older sister, Sydney, who provided the bone marrow and graduated from CdM last year. She now attends LSU and wants to be a physician’s assistant.

“He does need to be a little bit nicer to his sister,” Amy Meunier said with a laugh. “She did save his life.”